August 2, 2018 Blog

Briefing: the impact of austerity on policing

2nd August 2018 

Austerity means policing in Scotland is becoming more reactive. Here’s one example.

The number of recorded motor vehicle offences has fallen by over 168,000 since 2013-14 – that’s almost 57%.  The majority of the fall is due to a decrease in motor vehicle offences such as speeding, or unlawful use of a motor vehicle.

With austerity stretching the police force who have to do more with less, officers cannot  devote as much time to proactive policing, such as monitoring speeding and other road traffic incidents.

What the experts say:

Scottish Police Federation chair Calum Steele, which represents represents 98 per cent of officers in Scotland: 

“The decline in proactive police activity comes as no surprise. Police officers are stretched to breaking point and hardly have time to draw breath from the moment they start, to the moment they leave their work. 

“The demands placed upon them are relentless and they have nothing more left to give. When every sinew is stretched to simply meet call demand it is inevitable that something has to give. 

“We have seen over 150 officers and approximately 30 vehicles removed from dedicated road policing activity in the past few years alone. We have fewer specialist vehicles and fewer collision investigators. 

“The net effect is those that are left travel further to deliver service and vehicles become increasingly prone to breakdown, further restricting the ability to police.”

Joshua Harris, Director of Campaigns at road safety charity Brake, said:

“Having a strong and visible police presence on our roads is vital to improving road safety and so we strongly urge prioritising investment in roads police.

“Whilst on the surface, the reduction in motor vehicle offences recorded by the police in Scotland would appear to be a positive, it is difficult to attribute this to an actual reduction in the offences themselves.

“Any driver, cyclist or pedestrian will tell you that speeding is still an all too common sight on our roads and therefore we need to ensure those that do break the law, get caught, and this can only be achieved with greater levels of enforcement.”

Scottish Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“There has been a welcome decline in crime in Scotland as part of a long-term, worldwide trend. 

“However, while lower level offences like speeding may have fallen, it simply is not realistic to say that motoring offences have halved in five years.

“Instead, what these trends show is that Police Scotland officers are stretched, and don’t have the same level of resources to commit to traffic policing and other pro-active policing.

“We know that officer numbers are down, and those who remain are being increasingly pulled to the centre and away from local duties. That is why we have seen offences recorded by the police plummet since the creation of Police Scotland.”

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