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Chief admits simply ?not enough officers? to respond to every crime

Force says it cannot prioritise hate offences as high-impact ones go unresourced every day
Published - 13/11/2018 By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle

The chief constable of a force that issued divorce proceedings from a long-term alliance partner to ensure “better value-for-money” for communities has admitted high-impact crimes are still going unresourced every day – with no likelihood of prioritising the rising tide of hate offences.

West Mercia’s Anthony Bangham has echoed the sentiments of two of policing’s top tier chiefs in a back-to-basics plea to tackle burglary and violence ahead of recording incidents of misogyny.

CC Bangham, who has confirmed it can no longer support a Warwickshire neighbour that doesn’t pull its financial weight in the six-year relationship, said there are not enough officers to respond to every crime in his region.

The chief officer told Worcestershire county councillors that in spite of an 1,100 per cent rise in hate offences against disabled people in the last three years he had to be “honest”, adding: “We cannot, and I don’t think it is right for us to expect that we can then deploy and give a full wraparound service to every one of those incidents.”

Mr Bangham said the difference between recorded crimes and the availability of officers to respond to the crimes needed to be distinguished and the force cannot – and should not be expected to – respond to every recorded incident of hate crime.

He added: “The more crimes that we record, the more incidents that get recorded as [the] sort of crimes that need investigation, then frankly we just do not have enough officers to deal with it.

“I do think we are facing a dilemma of bringing more in to understand it but at the same time being more comfortable with triaging and perhaps recording without following up an investigation.

“I have every single day in this area un-resourced incidents of more significant, high impact crimes that are happening – we have got burglaries of homes, violent crimes, we have got people injured, we have injuries on the roads, we have children missing.

"We have un-resourced incidents that we are struggling to get to right now.

"Therefore, I do think we have to have an understanding that we can't simply be expected to go to more and more."

His comments on hate crime come as both Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick and NPCC chairman Sara Thornton issued statements in the last month signalling a return to “core policing” under the yolk of continued budget cuts to the service.

Meanwhile, West Mercia PCC John Campion told the full council meeting at County Hall in Worcester that £3.4 million of additional government funding will enable the force to add 100 officers to its frontline numbers in early 2019.

The increase, from its lowest-ever level of 1,931 to 2,031, is still well short of a complement of nearly 2,500 a decade ago.

And CC Bangham argued: “We cannot fix every problem. We have to start looking at things in a different way, even with a planned increase in officers.”

Touching on the pending divorce from Warwickshire, which must be complete by October next year, he said it was just not possible to carry on “supporting” another force.

He said the fact that West Mercia was providing more than two thirds of input in the strategic alliance was “affecting our ability to put the required number of officers into policing” in the region.

The chief said he did not have enough officers to “take that stance”, adding: “We have to recognise we are just about keeping our heads above water.”

When news broke of the split last month, former West Mercia deputy PCC Barrie Sheldon, who ironically could have steered the force in an entirely different direction had he won the 2016 election, said he was still confident that policing will grab the opportunity to reform and build, rather than destroy, the “very creative” liaison the neighbouring forces pioneered six years ago.

He lambasted the “better value-for-money” stance to end the relationship by his former West Mercia charges as tantamount to “crazy”, adding: “It will cost both forces dearly with negative impact on service.”

While he would not be drawn on the claims by former Warwickshire PCC Ron Ball that the “big divorce” to axe the alliance would definitely cost taxpayers “millions”, he said West Mercia would have to foot the bill.

The Office of the West Mercia PCC told Police Oracle that no costings on the final divorce bill had been possible before its unilateral announcement but it was hoped that before the forces part on October 8 next year – those figures will be in place.

Police and crime commissioner John Campion added: "Any new arrangement will be negotiated over the next 12 months. Until these negotiations are complete the full costs will not be clear."

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