The number of traffic police falls by a third in just 10 years, leading to questions over how new laws can be enforced.Mon, 07/08/2017
The number of traffic officers has fallen by a third in ten years. This has raised concerns over how UK roads will be kept safe, with fewer officers to police the roads.
The Daily Mail reports:
Cuts to the number of dedicated police traffic officers have worsened in the past five years, with numbers falling 24 per cent since 2012, while overall the number is down 30 per cent since 2007.
In 2007 there were 3,766 traffic officers in the forces which responded to a Freedom of Information request. In 2012 that figure stood at 3,472. By 2017 it had dropped to 2,643.
Greater Manchester Police traffic officer numbers dropped 69 per cent in the past ten years (241 to 75), Nottinghamshire’s fell 56 per cent (138 to 61), while the West Midlands cut numbers by 52 per cent from 384 to 186.
The RAC said the crackdown on mobile phone use while driving risks being undermined if there is no one to catch law breakers.
Spokesman Rod Dennis said: 'Drivers tell us there are not enough police on the roads enforcing driving laws, so inevitably there will be concern that people are getting away with breaking them.
'Illegal mobile phone use at the wheel has been a growing problem in the UK and those that persist in breaking the law need to know there is a real threat of getting caught.
'We welcomed the tougher penalties that came in earlier this year, but to be effective they must be backed up by rigorous enforcement.'
Since March 1, drivers have faced six points on their licence and a £200 fine – up from three points and £100. The RAC said: ‘Those who persist in breaking the law need to know there is a real threat of getting caught.’
The Home Office said effective road policing is not just dependent on dedicated traffic officers, while the National Police Chiefs’ Council pointed out that all officers were able to help traffic specialists.
The figures came from 30 police forces that responded to Freedom of Information requests by the Press Association. Fifteen did not respond.
A spokesman said: 'We need more cops in cars, not fewer.
'The UK has among the safest roads in Europe, although the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads has started to rise after many years of steady decline. Maybe there is a link?'
He added: 'Even senior officers have publicly expressed concern at the falling number of their colleagues.'
Labour's shadow minister for policing and crime Louise Haigh, a former special constable, said: 'These savage cuts will deeply alarm the public as reckless drivers will feel able to offend with impunity.'
She added: 'There have been a number of new driving offences in the last few years, not least relating to phones and the new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
'The police don't stand a cat in hell's chance of pursuing and convicting people under these offences with ever-constrained resources.'
Jayne Willetts, who speaks on roads policing for the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents rank and file officers, said cuts meant specialist roads policing officers now face added demands.
'They are having to attend calls for help from the public in addition to patrolling the road network to target travelling criminality.'
She added: 'The introduction and use of new technology is welcome but the visibility of the police cannot be overstated as a deterrent and a reassurance to the public.
'Unfortunately the thin blue line is becoming too thin.'
However, West Mercia Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, who speaks on roads policing for the NPCC, said: 'Individual police forces decide how best to allocate resources and keep their communities safe.
'Some may choose to reduce the numbers of specialist traffic officers, but this does not mean that their roads are not adequately policed.
'They can deploy a range of resources, including ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) technology, targeted patrols using unmarked vans, high vantage points and helmet cams to catch offenders.
'All police officers are available to help those who are traffic policing specialists.'
A Home Office spokesman said: 'The Government has protected overall police spending in real terms since the Spending Review 2015 and we will always ensure forces have the resources they need to do their vitally important work.
Effective roads policing is not necessarily dependent on dedicated road traffic officers. The use of technology, other police personnel and local communities also have a role to play in keeping our roads safe from crime.