Hampshire Constabulary continues to face tough times as it is radically redesigned in a bid to save a further £25m by April 2017. But despite its challenges, reported crime across the force has continued to fall. Clare Semke reports.
To say the past four years have been tough for Hampshire Constabulary could be seen as something of an understatement.
The government’s spending squeeze meant the force had to save £55m by April.
Now it is fighting to save an extra £25m by April 2017.
From the time the first round of cuts were announced in 2010 to February, 456 officer and 520 staff posts at Hampshire Constabulary have been axed.
Stations have been sold, front desks have been shut and more services are now shared – including roads policing which is shared with Thames Valley – in a bid to save money.
But despite its cash woes, the force has continued to report a reduction in crime.
Latest figures show crime reports dropped for the sixth consecutive year in 2013/14.
They fell from 108,449 to 103,535 – a 4.53 per cent reduction.
In fact, drops were reported in almost all individual crime categories including knife and gun crime, thefts from vehicles, robbery, criminal damage, anti-social behaviour and violence against the person in which the victim was injured and assaults which are classed as ‘less injury’.
Detective Chief Inspector Tara Williams says: ‘The force is very proud.
‘Everything we do and everything we achieve is around victims and witnesses and putting victims at the heart of our investigations.
‘There have been some cuts and we are going through some more changes now.
‘We have been operating in a more streamlined way.
‘We have been working with technology such as mobile data and body-worn video, which is such a powerful thing.’
However forcewide, vehicle thefts have risen 8.7 per cent from 1,501 to 1,632 year-on-year.
In eastern area the rise from 487 to 558 was event greater at 14.5 per cent.
The number of rapes reported in the eastern area, which includes Portsmouth, Fareham Gosport, Havant, Waterlooville and the Isle of Wight fell 2.1 per cent from 189 to 185. But that was still an average of more than three reports a week.
And forcewide rape reports rose from 483 to 583 – a 20.7 per cent increase.
The force has been trialling a new resolution centre – where officers and staff work together to resolve less serious calls which is already helping ensure reports are dealt with more appropriately.
Meanwhile officers are still sent to the most serious calls.
Det Chief Insp Williams adds: ‘We have taken experienced officers who are used to dealing with jobs out and about and put them into the control centre, and have been working out how we prioritise our calls so we deploy the right resources first time.
‘For example, if a victim of rape calls us, we want to deploy our specially trained officers. That means the victim gets a better service.
‘The indications are showing that we can cut in the region of 50,000 police deployments a year out of about a quarter of a million calls.’
It is estimated that the force will have shrunk by 23 per cent by April 2017 as the force is radically reorganised to tackle the latest round of cuts.
Another 535 officer and staff posts are being dropped, the number of officers in managerial posts is being cut and a chief inspector is being put in each of the 11 districts.
However despite even tougher times ahead, senior officers have vowed that victims will remain at the heart of policing, and neighbourhood policing teams are ring fenced to ensure they cannot be moved to other duties.