Sheffield Star Column – Police Officer Numbers

For years, central government cut the grants for policing and said it would have no effect on levels of crime.

Year on year we had fewer and fewer police officers.

After ten years of this, police numbers nationally had dropped by 20,000 and in South Yorkshire by 500.

Although Police and Crime Commissioners from all parties warned of the dangers, the government carried on.

Now they want to put back the 20,000 they cut – by the end of this parliament.

I welcome this and see it as a rather late in the day admission that they got it wrong – a sort of apology.

The truth is that if you do go on cutting police numbers, you will eventually pay a price.

And that price has been the rise of more criminal gangs, especially those involved in the supply of drugs.

Almost all the serious violence in Sheffield over the last few years has been gang related.

The gangs have been seeking to extend and protect their drug markets, often fighting between themselves.

This is what so many of the targeted shootings have been about.

So as I put together the police budget for the coming financial year – from April – I am including in it this year’s share of those additional officers that the government is funding – 149 posts.

But even when the full number are in post in four years’ time, that still only brings the number of police back to where they were in 2010, when the cuts began.

We need to go beyond that because since then the landscape of crime has changed.

Drugs are a reality in more communities now and with more unemployment in prospect, there is a serious risk of more young people being drawn into crime with its promise of easy money.

So I propose to increase police numbers by a further 79, using some local resources.

This means that in 2021 we shall see altogether an additional 228 police officers joining the force.

This is an unprecedented number and gives the police the chance to step up their action against the gangs.

Cutting police numbers was an unforgivable mistake.

I doubt whether there will be any apology.

I just hope the lesson has been learnt.

But in South Yorkshire, we are not just putting back the police we lost, we are adding to their number, so they can disrupt, deter and take out of circulation those who are the other plague among us – the criminal gangs.