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Cuts continue to bite

Leicestershire Police's effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime has deteriorated in the last year - according to a police watchdog.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) yesterday published its reports on police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy - and while Leicestershire did well overall, the inspector highlighted an area of concern.

The report gave the Force a rating of 'requires improvement' for effectiveness, stating it has not improved the way it protects some vulnerable victims and said the practice of downgrading risk in some high-risk domestic abuse cases is of concern.

And it says the Force needs to do more to understand why its arrest rate for domestic abuse is considerably below national average, and why the proportion of arrests for domestic abuse leading to a charge or summons has also fallen over the last year.

"These findings are of concern, of course," says Tiff Lynch, chairman of Leicestershire Police Federation, "However, I think they just show that the Force is continuing to feel the effects of the cuts to its budgets. We have said for some time that the quality of the service we are able to provide will be affected if we have to struggle to match resource with demand."

The report went on to say the Force's approach to preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour is good, saying it uses a structured approach to solving problems and ensures that it evaluates the effectiveness of its response.

It recognised neighbourhood policing teams understand their local communities and work well with partner organisations, such as local councils, and praised them for making good use of social media to raise awareness of police services and activity, and for public safety messages.

The Force received a 'good' rating for both efficiency and legitimacy, with inspectors saying it has a good understanding of current demand for its services, uses resources well and has a good track record of reducing costs and reinvesting in high priority areas. PEEL is the annual assessment of police forces in England and Wales. Forces are assessed on their effectiveness, efficiency, legitimacy and leadership. At the end of the PEEL year, all the judgments made throughout the year together with other findings and information are brought together to produce a rounded annual assessment of each force and it was this report that was issued yesterday.

Inspector Zoe Billingham said: "I am very pleased that the Force continues to provide a consistently good service to the public in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. The Force works hard to understand the needs of the communities it serves, making good use of social media to help with crime prevention.

"However, although the Force has made some progress, I am disappointed that Leicestershire Police has not improved the way in which it protects some vulnerable victims. I am also concerned about how Leicestershire Police investigates crime. An overly complex process for dealing with investigations is hampering the Force's ability to carry out effective and timely investigations.

"I am reassured that Leicestershire Police has sustained its good track record of reducing costs and reinvesting in high-priority areas. It has a good understanding of the current demands for its services and is able to target its resources accordingly.

"The Force is committed to treating the people it serves with fairness and respect, and seeks both positive feedback and challenge from the public. It does, however, need to do more analysis of the information it receives from the public, to identify and address the areas it could improve on, with the aim of further increasing public trust.

"I am pleased to confirm that the Force treats its workforce fairly and respectfully. The focus on ensuring the wellbeing of staff and officers is testament to this, and it is encouraging that supervisors have a comprehensive understanding of their wellbeing responsibilities."

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