Cambridge police increase bobbies on the beat for the first time in 13 years
PCC Jason Ablewhite admits force would need 300 more officers to deal with every reported incident
Cambridgeshire police will have increased the number of bobbies on the beat for the first time since 2005 when their latest recruits are fully trained.
The announcement, by Cambridgeshire police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite, comes in the wake of a six per cent increase in reported crime in the region during the last 12 months.
Responding to recent criticism that the police are not investigating certain offences, such as shoplifting, Mr Ablewhite, insists that the force would need another 300 officers to deal with every incident reported to them.
Mr Ablewhite told the Cambridge Independent: “I promised more police in Cambridgeshire as a result of the precept increase. By March 31 next year, all 105 of our new constables will be in place and going through the training. But what I would ask the public to remember is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to train officers, you can’t just buy them off the shelf, and while a lot of them are already through the training process it will be a least six months before they become independent and are able to go out on patrol on their own.
“We are growing, for the first time since 2005, while the county has grown nearly 20 per cent in the same time period.”
As for criticism from local traders – complaints published last week from Mill Road businesses – that shoplifting is no longer investigated, Mr Ablewhite said: “It always comes back to ‘threat risk and harm’, when an incident comes in. Shoplifting is low risk to all intents and purposes.
“I am not decrying shoplifters, they are still criminals and they should be brought to justice but put that against a child who has been abused or a victim of modern slavery or someone who has been sexually assaulted or raped, then people would expect the police to be there quickly and dealing with that kind vulnerability.
“If we had the police to do absolutely everything, I mean to satisfy everyone needs, we would probably need another 300 officers to do it.
“People expect the police to do everything, which is fine if they have the resources to do so, but we have to be practical about what we expect of the police going forward. I would not advocate anything that would put an individual citizen at risk. The police should be dealing with crime and violent offenders. But we don’t think there is anything wrong with asking the public to help us by downloading CCTV and providing us with evidence.”
Romsey Ward councillor Dave Baigent wondered if the police were asking for people to start making citizens’ arrests after Mill Road traders in Cambridge voiced their concerns about the lack of investigation into certain crimes.
But Mr Ablewhite refutes suggestions the traders have been abandoned by the force.
He said: “I don’t think it is ever ideal that anybody should feel abandoned. But it does show how stretched policing is. Where there is domestic violence, child abuse, counter terrorism, modern day slavery going on, real vulnerability in every single community, the police will always prioritise that.
“I met with CamBac (Cambridge Business Against Crime) recently, who work directly with local policing and retailers and which now has a dedicated officer who is on the beat and working with businesses in the city centre.
“If a shop for example, rings up in the afternoon and says they have had some stock stolen at some in the day, quite often small shops do not have CCTV, and if you’ve got somebody who has a hoodie on it is very difficult to identify the individual.
“When it comes to prosecuting someone, it is always with a view that it must be beyond reasonable doubt that the person has committed an offence.”
Crime in Cambridgeshire rose by six per cent in the last 12 months but Mr Ablewhite insists the region is still one of the safest places to live in the UK even though he is disappointed by the increase in crime on his patch.
However, he also revealed that crime figures reported for this year so far, are showing a decrease.
He said: “We are doing better than a lot of other areas and Cambridgeshire is still one of the safest places to live in the UK.
“We are now one of the best in the UK in terms of the way we record crime. But I cannot win frankly. If crime goes down it is because people haven’t got the confidence to report it and if it goes up it is my fault anyway.
“From my point of view it is disappointing there is any increase in crime. What we have seen with the new policing model is that over a period of time, crime will start to drop again.
“And the early indications are that it has started to drop in Cambridgeshire this year, I’m not putting any money on it at the moment, but it just looks as though it is coming down. We have had a number of years where it has steadily gone up, and it reached a plateau last year, but it now looks like it is going the other way which is pleasing and heartening to see.”
Knife crime is also a major concern for the force after rising by 77 per cent in the region since 2011.
Mr Ablewhite added: “Knife crime is one of the things we are all concerned about nationally. A lot depends on education but younger people are carrying knives and we are seeing more knife crime in our county particularly when linked with drugs.
“It does seem that, statistically, the use of knives are not random acts upon members of the public but more drug dealer on drug dealer. It is still a concern and I am constantly seeking assurances from the chief constable that we are tackling the scourge of drugs at every opportunity.”