Funding cuts forcing police to give ‘green light’ to criminals

Crimes such as petrol theft, vehicle crime and shoplifting are increasingly no longer being investigated by police forces due to government cuts, MPs heard today.

Surrey police chief constable Lynne Owens told the home affairs committee that people who drive away from petrol stations without paying was one example of crimes they could no longer afford to investigate.

"We do have to make choices," she said.

Asked if the cuts meant they were giving a "green light" to petrol thieves, she replied: "If we have a repeat vehicle, repeat person or repeat location there is always going to be a requirement on policing to respond, but we are not a civil debt recovery agency and there are too many examples where policing has moved into gaps caused by others and it is those gaps that need to be filled."

She added that victims of vehicle crime could also no longer expect to receive a visit from the police.

"Clearly [the cuts] means we are going to be going to a different selection of things that we would have done three or four years ago."

"Whereas previously we might have gone and visited a victim of vehicle crime, we might not visit a victim of vehicle crime in the future," she added.

She suggested that officers would only personally investigate crimes if there was a potential "risk, threat or harm" to individuals.

Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner Tony Hogg told the committee that his force were no longer investigating some shoplifting offences due to the cuts.

Owens' and Hogg's comments come as six police and crime commissioners today threatened the home secretary Theresa May with legal action over her planned changes to the way the police are funded in England and Wales.

The group, including Boris Johnson's policing deputy Stephen Greenhalgh, say the changes are "unjustified and deeply flawed".

Lancashire Police chief Steve Finnigan said that upcoming changes to the police funding formula meant his force could lose "thousands" of officers over the coming years.

Leicester Police chief constable Simon Cole added that police patrols would in future be much "less numerous" and needed to be "targeted" in certain areas due to reduction in funding.

He told MPs that while crime overall was coming down, their work had become increasingly complicated. He said the police were increasingly acting as social workers rather than crime fighters. "We refer more people to social services than we arrest," he added.