West Yorkshire Police has gained hundreds of front line officers over the last three years, as it seeks to tackle increased levels of violent crime.
Figures from the Home Office show that 285 officers, in roles categorised as ‘visible operational front line’, have been added to the force between March 2015 and this year – an increase of 11 per cent.
The force faces rising violent crime in West Yorkshire. In the 12 months to March this year, 82,010 violent crimes were recorded, more than double the number in 2015.
The Office for National Statistics says that some of the increase may be as a result of better recording of crimes.
In total, there were 2,899 officers in visible front line roles this March. They include 501 neighbourhood officers, who are posted in the community to gather intelligence and provide help at the scene of crimes, and 1,818 incident response officers.
Across England and Wales, more than 7,000 visible front line officers have been lost over the last three years, a reduction of 11 per cent.
The Home Office includes a number of other roles as ‘non-visible front line’, such as those involved intelligence gathering operations. These dropped in number in West Yorkshire Police, from 1,421 in 2015 to 1,352 this year.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “Forces are changing how they deliver local policing to reflect the priorities of local people and so that they can respond better to the changing nature of crime. They recognise effective community engagement is more than just having a visible police presence. Prevention, partnership working, problem-solving and safeguarding the vulnerable remain key.
“Decisions about front line policing, and how resources are best deployed, are for Chief Constables and democratically accountable Police and Crime Commissioners. Most have already set out plans to either protect or increase front line policing this year.
“Last year, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service spoke to every force about the changing demand they face and we are helping with a £460m increase in overall funding 2018/19, including increased funding to tackle counter-terrorism and increased funding for local policing through council tax precept.”
Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Apter, said: “Since 2010, we have lost more than 21,000 police officers with 80 per cent of those being taken from the front line.
“Neighbourhood officers represent the backbone of policing in this country – local officers who are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the service, providing a reassuring presence on the streets helping to detect and prevent crimes. As we lose neighbourhood officers we lose the vital investigative and intelligence-gathering roles they perform in our communities.
“The government has to acknowledge that as violent crime increases, and with the ever-present threat of terrorism, the cuts to the service are coming home to roost and it is our communities that are suffering as a result.”