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'Perfect storm' of officer and budget cuts blamed for rising knife crime

PUBLISHED: 09:11 18 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:54 18 March 2019

Suffolk Police Federation chairman, Darren Harris  Picture: DARREN HARRIS/SUFFOLK POLICE FEDERATION

Suffolk Police Federation chairman, Darren Harris Picture: DARREN HARRIS/SUFFOLK POLICE FEDERATION

SUFFOLK POLICE FEDERATION

The words of murdered teenager Tavis Spencer-Aitkens' mother highlight a growing urgency to end rising levels of knife crime.

Sharon Box called for stricter enforcement to reverse what she called a lack of “order or control”.

But Suffolk Police Federation chairman Darren Harris said any control had been sapped by budget cuts and officer reductions in the last decade.

The police and crime commissioner’s 12.7% council tax precept rise will put 29 more officers on the front line, following a restructure to put more than 100 into safer neighbourhood teams last October, but Mr Harris said the damage had been done by government dictated savings.

“You don’t need scientist to see the correlation,” he added.

“But the problem is more complex than just visibility on the streets. We’ve lost a presence in areas we were once able to manipulate and change.”

The federation, representing rank-and-file officers, last year estimated the loss of 250 frontline jobs since 2011 – from 1,200.

This month, the Home Secretary held emergency talks with chief constables, pledging everything he could to provide police with the resources to fight knife crime.

Mr Harris said was heartened by Sajid Javid’s comments, but said community policing had been “watered down” by real-terms central funding shortfalls.

“I believe it could be too little too late,” he added.

“This perfect storm has brought about a rise in young people involved in knife crime.

“We need more funding for officers to serve the public and get deeper into these communities.

“That was the thinking behind safer neighbourhood teams, which, over the years, have been diluted and watered down.”

Suffolk police used stop-and-search powers 1,585 times in the 12 months to September 2018 – from 5,884 the year before.

The Best Use of Stop and Search scheme was introduced in 2014 to achieve more intelligence-led operations and better arrest ratios.

People of black and minority ethnicity were between 3.5 and five times as likely to be stopped and searched in the most recent 12-month period.

Mr Harris said: “Stop-and-search is a useful power in the right instance, but the answer isn’t carte blanche use.

“We need to be held to account, but if the outcome is that officers are afraid to use stop-and-search, that’s a bad thing.”

Last week, five people were convicted of killing 17-year-old Tavis Spencer-Aitkens in Packard Avenue last June.

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