The UK’s most senior policewoman has warned the British public that they should no longer expect police officers to turn up at their door if they are burgled as the forces have to prioritise in the wake of budget cuts.
Chief Constable Sara Thornton, head of the new National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said that the cuts, as well as the shifting nature of criminality could lead to the changes.
She admitted that if someone had an iPad stolen from their home, “it could be” that an officer would not be dispatched to investigate.
Ms Thornton, who is often described as David Cameron’s favourite police officer after her eight years as his constituency police chief, said that officers were instead focusing on child sex offences, cyber crime and terrorism.
Speaking to the BBC, she said:
Crime is changing in this country. There are a lot less burglaries than there used to be, a lot less car crime, but the sorts of crimes that are on the increase – sexual offences, concerns about terrorism, cyber crime – that’s where we really need to focus.
We need to move from reacting to some of those traditional crimes to thinking about focusing on threat and harm and risk and really protecting the public. If we’re really serious about putting a lot of effort and resource into protecting children, for example, that might mean that if you’ve had a burglary, for example, and the burglar has fled, we won’t get there as quickly as we have in the past.
We cannot do everything. The cuts are so significant, we are going to have so few officers that the public’s expectations are going to have to change. I don’t think it’s possible to carry on doing what we’ve always done, as we will just fail the public but also cause unacceptable stress among our officers and staff. Think of the threat to our children from sexual offences, from sexual abuse, from online abuse, that’s what we’ve got to prioritise.
Ms Thornton pointed out that the police had lost 70,000 posts over ten years and had endured 25% budget cuts.
She added that burglaries were down but the number of arrests for terrorist offences was at his highest level since 7/7, while the number of reports about child sex abuse had increased by more than 80% over the last three years.
Asked if an officer would investigate a complaint about anti-social behaviour she suggested that it would not be treated as a priority, and neither would searching for cannabis in people’s homes.
In Thornton’s view, limited resources should be focused more on preventing such crimes rather than responding to them after the event which actually seems like pretty sound logic to us.