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'Uniformed presence isn't going to stop cybercrime' - police respond to bobbies on the beat debate

PUBLISHED: 17:21 29 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:29 29 December 2017

Instances of inappropriate behaviour by staff at Suffolk police over the last three years have emerged  but not all have resulted in any action being taken. Picture: JOE GIDDENS/PA WIRE

Instances of inappropriate behaviour by staff at Suffolk police over the last three years have emerged  but not all have resulted in any action being taken. Picture: JOE GIDDENS/PA WIRE

Almost nine in 10 people in Suffolk and Essex have not seen a bobby on the beat in their local area in the past year, a poll by this newspaper has found.

Almost nine in 10 people in Suffolk and Essex have not seen a bobby on the beat in their local area in the past year, a poll by this newspaper has found.

Police chiefs insist modern crime, such as cybercrime and online fraud, and budget cuts, have led to fewer neighbourhood patrols.

Some 88% of 338 EADT readers said they had not seen a uniformed police officer in their area in the last year in Suffolk. It was 87% of 145 Essex readers, and 87% of 405 Ipswich Star readers.

The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services has previously raised concerns over the impacts of an “erosion” of neighbourhood policing. Last year, the College of Policing said that random patrols “have no crime reduction effect”.

Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, said: “I quite understand people’s desire to have a uniformed presence to provide reassurance. There are arguments that they have a deterrent effect but that is a simplistic way of looking at it.

“We have safer neighbourhood teams in Suffolk and they are here to stay. But the pattern of crime has changed hugely in the last five to 10 years. A uniformed presence isn’t going to stop cyber-related or technology-enabled crime, or domestic abuse.

“So it comes down to balance. If we had a lot more resources then we could have more officers, but I reassure people that they would be amazed by how many are not uniformed who do surveillance and undercover work.”

The number of equivalent full-time police officers in Suffolk fell by 12% between 2010 and 2017, from 1,246 to 1,102, government data shows. In Essex, it fell by 22%, from 3,606 to 2,819.

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Jupp, of Suffolk Constabulary, said cyber offences, domestic and sexual abuse, and grooming and modern slavery offences, has forced police to reform services. He added: “We will always look to deliver an effective service with the resources we have available.”

On Facebook, EADT reader Adrian Finbow wrote: “The world has changed since village bobbies were at their prime.”

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We are seeing less crime on streets and more behind closed doors and online. Our officers who investigate domestic violence, drugs gangs, online fraudsters, and child abusers may not be on patrol in uniform but are doing just as important a job.”

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