Crime continues to fall despite cuts

A Hampshire Police picture to illustrate an arrest
A Hampshire Police picture to illustrate an arrest
Picture: Hampshire Constabulary/Twitter

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Almost 3,800 fewer crimes were reported in our area in the last year – but police warn tough challenges lie ahead as Hampshire’s force continues to tackle multi-million pound spending cuts.

Crime dropped 3.75 per cent in the recently-formed Eastern policing area – which covers Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport, Havant, Waterlooville and the Isle of Wight as Hampshire Constabulary ended the last two financial years having saved a total of £36m.

But another £18m must be cut if Hampshire is to achieve its £54m savings target by April 2015.

Chief Superintendent Nigel Hindle, who is in charge of policing in the Eastern area, hailed the drop in crime, which was achieved while the force continues to drive down costs while protecting front-line police officer numbers.

Chief Supt Hindle said: ‘It was a challenging year.

‘My Eastern area went down from three separate command units in Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and Central area. I had to go through the challenge of bringing those into a single entity.

‘One of the major reasons we have improved is restructuring the way we operate during this year.

‘It means we have got a real focus on investigating crime more effectively.

‘This year there have been 3,741 fewer victims than the previous year across the Eastern area. That good news story is continuing.

‘To date I have got an 11.64 per cent reduction of all crime on the same period last year.

‘I would identify the reason for that as the fact that we have protected the safer Neighbourhoods Teams whose primary role is to reduce crime.’

But despite the drop, there were still an average 136 crimes reported every day in our area last year.

Almost all crime fell, with the only increase being in reports of rape, of which there were 235 in the Eastern area last year – up five per cent from 223 rapes reported in 2010/11.

The biggest reduction was in robberies which dropped 16 per cent from 349 to 252. It comes after Hampshire police relaunched its Operation Nemesis crackdown to drive down burglaries and robberies.

Chief Supt Hindle said: ‘Operation Nemesis has released resources for us to focus on those causing the most harm and crime – burglary particularly.

‘But we have also focused that resource on robbery and that is why we have got a significant reduction of 16 per cent in robbery.

‘It’s about having the right people with the right skills in the right place.’

Massive government spending cuts have meanwhile led to the closure of 18 police stations forcewide and some station front desks.

Services including roads policing and IT have merged with neighbouring Thames Valley Police.

And 650 posts – 200 officers and 450 civilian police staff – have been axed to save cash.

The strength of feeling among the rank and file was clear when earlier this month 450 off-duty Hampshire officers marched through central London with 35,000 others from forces in England and Wales as part of the Police Federation-organised protest against ‘criminal’ cuts.

Meanwhile John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, has accused Home Secretary Theresa May of having ‘no intention of listening to the rank and file’.

He spoke out after the Home Secretary told more than 1,200 officers at the Police Federation Conference in Bournemouth the cuts must be seen through ‘for the good of the country.’

In Hampshire budget cuts have led to some departments merging, including Major Crime and the Serious Organised Crime Unit.

Local policing teams have been reorganised and new teams have been created to focus on investigations in a bid to keep crime falling.

Technology has also played a big part in getting officers out on the streets.

Chief Supt Hindle said: ‘We have created some new teams in the Eastern area called district CID and custody investigations teams. These teams are more skilled.

‘They have both CID and uniformed officers brought together to deal with all those arrested and dealt with relating to serious acquisitive crime.

‘Roughly 10 per cent of the Targeted Patrol Team resources who do immediate response have been moved to staff these teams.

‘It was a specific decision to pool my resources into professional investigation.

‘We have released capacity by giving Targeted Patrol Teams mobile data terminals so they have got information out on the street rather than having to come back to the station. Their capacity to do extra work has increased as a result of these changes.

‘There is more capacity than there was before, despite a reduction in staff.

‘It is about targeting what we are doing.’