'There are just not enough of us to go around" says police leader
The recent spate of ATM raids and van thefts are just another sign of the difficulties Leicestershire Police are facing due to the Government's cuts programme, according to the leader of Leicestershire Police Federation.
Tiff Lynch says that the Force has lost more than 400 officers in the seven years since the austerity measures were introduced, leaving it struggling to maintain an effective policing service.
"In simple terms, there are just not enough of us to go around. Police officers are stretched to the limit. They are trying to do their best for their communities but with fewer and fewer feet on the beat, they are up against it," says Tiff.
"We appreciate the Force has recently started recruiting again but sadly we are still nowhere near the officer numbers we had in 2010 when the cuts first began and, of course, in the intervening years we have seen demand rise too. We are not just seeing an increase in traditional crimes such as robbery, theft and vehicle crime though; we are also facing an explosion in cyber-crime, growing numbers of cases involving human trafficking and more and more investigations into child sexual exploitation.
"Also, as the service of last resort, the one service that never seems to say no, we find ourselves picking up the pieces when other organisations - including mental health services - are struggling to cope themselves due to cuts to their funding.
"The Force is under pressure but the people within the Force are also feeling the strain too. As a Federation, we are becoming all too aware that many of our members are suffering from stress-related illnesses because they just can't cope with their workloads and do not want to feel they are letting down the public."
Earlier this month, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary Fire & Rescue Services gave the Force a "requires improvement" rating in the latest PEEL (Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy) review. HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham acknowledged the Force was working hard to improve its efficiency.
But, Tiff says the Force can only do so much after having its funding cut.
"The Chief Constable and PCC are doing their best to try to balance reduced resources and increased demand. It is now time for the Government to re-invest in policing. While the Force is suffering as a result of the cuts, the real losers are members of the public who are not being provided with the policing service they deserve.
"As we have seen with the latest crime figures, more and more people are becoming victims of crimes and it is time to reverse that trend."