Levels of theft in Devon and Cornwall are on the increase. That’s hardly surprising given the enthusiasm with which the accountants at the head of the Police Authority have pursued staff cuts so far. Not that it is their fault really. They have been given a tough deck of cards by the current Conservative government which is demanding that the police budget be cut by a fifth. Some 700 officers have been sliced from the force and of 91 thousand incidents reported in 2011/12 some 36,000 were not further investigated. The Police Federation blame the cuts.
It is not all bad news of course. The police we have are doing an excellent job. My own sister’s home in Cornwall was burgled last Christmas. Thieves smashed their way in and took the television and DVD. The Police who investigated the incident were magnificent, even offering counselling, something that my sister did not take up, but to someone in a more vulnerable position, such as a parent with young children, or an elderly person, would be invaluable. They also later caught the culprits.
The big increase in thefts is from farms and businesses. Gangs from Eastern Europe have been responsible for an increase in scrap metal thefts from farms. Worse still, farm animals are being stolen. Hundreds of sheep are being stolen overnight. This has got so out of hand that one Dartmoor farmer has taken to dying his sheep orange to deter the rustlers. Poverty is arguably the root cause of an increase in the theft of diesel being siphoned off from lorries. Of the crimes not “followed up” in the past year, 4,000 were thefts from vehicles (there goes that diesel) and 3,700 were burglaries.
The owner of a small car repair garage and haulage business that had suffered diesel theft recently spoke with me to complain about the difficulty of getting crime followed up.
How do we deal with this? Crime is at a low base level in Devon and Cornwall. Should we be bothered about the mere 6% rise in crime levels in the past year? Of course we should. Crime is on the increase in Devon and Cornwall while it is decreasing elsewhere.
We need more local policing. I will guarantee the jobs of our force at constable level. I appreciate there must be cuts given the government’s obsession with cut-backs but these will not fall on front line policing if and when I am elected. There will be redundancies. There is no alternative. But senior staff will have to bear the brunt of these. Delivery of local policing will need to be more flexible but front line policing will not be axed.
(This article first appeared on William’s blog)