Last month, Humberside Police, under the lead of the Conservative PCC, were the only police authority in the country to be labelled ‘inadequate’. The Government’s cut to the Humberside Police Authority budget has led to one of the biggest cuts to officer numbers in the country. The budget cuts forced the authority to undertake a restructure, and the results have been really poor for the area. We’ve seen a reduction of 444 officers since 2010. There have been occasions when not a single officer has been on duty in Grimsby.
This comes at a time when crime has been rising for two and a half years in North East Lincolnshire. Compared with last year, there has been 40% more violent crime and sexual offences. Robberies have increased by more than half. Communities deserve better.
When crime is a real concern, people need to see officers out on the streets to feel safe, let alone to ensure those officers are able respond quickly when crime is reported. But the Humberside authority’s restructure has seen a large relocation of staff and services to North of the Humber. At the time when they are needed most, people feel as if the police aren’t there for them.
So the public’s confidence in the police has broken down. Since the election I have received a significant number of complaints about certain crime hotspots. When I suggest that people contact the police, they often say that ‘reporting crime isn’t worthwhile, as nothing ever gets done about it’.
And it’s no wonder people have given up contacting the police if they can’t get through. The 101 non-emergency number has been live for four years now, and yet it is still not working. I’ve been told that it’s improving, but between July and September this year, over 15,000 calls went unanswered in Humberside. Last month, my office spent eight minutes trying to get through to somebody before giving up. It completely undermines the purpose of the number if people don’t get an answer and have to call 999 instead.
I received a particularly large number of calls and letters about Patrick Street in Grimsby. I raised this issue with the local authority, the Assistant Chief Constable and the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, and subsequently we held a community meeting to try and assist in resolving the issues. I’m glad that I’ve been able to help and that we’re now seeing progress being made there. But Members of Parliament shouldn’t have to push police to respond to people’s cries for help. Unfortunately, again due to cuts to resources, our police force have said they have shifted their focus to ‘core business’- which means responding to crime. The prevention of crime is being side lined more and more.
I had an exasperated mother come to see me about her 14 year-old son. He had been truanting from school, acting violently and abusively at home, and disappearing overnight. Police community support services no longer have the resources to step in at this early stage. Due to budget cuts, neither do the local authority social services, youth services or the school. This family desperately want help now so their child doesn’t fall into crime. When there is no longer assistance provided by the state to intervene early and prevent people turning to crime, we will all pay the price later on.
Some of these problems have been acknowledged by the Humberside authority. I welcome that 22 police officers have been reallocated to Grimsby, but it will be cold comfort to those who were victims of crime in the meantime. These recent changes must start to show improvements in service to the public. But the biggest problem for Grimsby’s police service is that it’s been consistently under-resourced. That is why the prospect of the Government cutting the policing budget by a further 25% is so worrying. That would lead to a cut of 300 officers in Humberside. We need more officers on the streets, and more resources to deal with complaints- we cannot cope with further cuts.