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Recruitment drive as West Mercia Police loses 16 per cent of police officers in seven years

By Lisa O'Brien | Crime | Published:

Police officer numbers in the force that covers Shropshire have fallen by more than 370 in the past seven years, new figures show.

West Mercia Police saw a 16 per cent drop in officer numbers between 2010 and September 2017

West Mercia Police saw a 16 per cent drop in officer numbers between 2010 and September 2017.

The number of police officers fell to 2,017 last year, leaving 160 officers per 100,000 population in the policing patch which covers Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

Police community support officers (PCSOs) also fell by a fifth during the same time frame, according to the government report.

Numbers dropped from 279 in 2010 to 223 last September, although the number of special constables rose by 67 per cent in the same period – from 233 to 388. PCSOs work with police officers and share some, but not all of their powers, while special constables are volunteers who have the same powers as police.

The difference in forces between 2010 and 2017

Now West Mercia Police has launched a recruitment drive which will start on Monday.

West Mercia’s Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, said the recruitment drive would protect the number of officers employed by the force.

He said: “The public want visible, accessible policing focused on resolving the problems in our communities.

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“I am delivering this by protecting the frontline, bolstering police numbers through this recruitment drive and prioritising resources to keep our communities safe.

“The level of interest is already encouraging, and we expect a high standard of applicants who reflect the diversity in our communities, and will deliver the quality service our communities deserve.”

Martin Evans, Assistant Chief Constable of West Mercia Police added: “Policing has changed over time but it remains one of the most challenging, unpredictable yet utterly rewarding jobs I know.

“A career with West Mercia Police is one that I recommend to anyone who wants to make a positive difference every day to the lives of the people in their community.”

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Rising level of crime

The latest figures come as statistics show there was a rising level of crime in the West Mercia area last year.

It emerged in April that crimes recorded by West Mercia Police increased by nine per cent in 2017, with a rise of 13 per cent for violent offences.

The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, showed increases in the number of recorded sexual offences, vehicle crimes, bike thefts, and weapon possession from the end of 2016 to the end of 2017.

West Mercia Police recorded a total 85,790 crimes in the year ending 2017.

However, the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW), released at the same time, stated that most crimes had stayed at the same level as the previous year.

The CSEW assesses people’s experiences of crime for the previous 12 months and is carried out using face-to-face interviews.

It said that eight in 10 adults had not experienced any of the crimes included in the survey in the past year.

National trend

Chief Superintendent Kevin Purcell, policing lead for Shropshire and Telford, said the reduction in police officers had followed the national trend.

He said: “While there has been a reduction in the number of police officers this is a reduction over the past seven years and no different to any other police force in the country. In fact, here in West Mercia our reductions have not been as great as experienced by some other forces.”

Chief Superintendent Purcell said the force’s special constabulary was an “important and invaluable” team of volunteers who give up their own time to support policing.

They come from all walks of life and they volunteer a minimum of four hours a week to their local police force, forming a vital link between the regular police and the community. Once they have completed their training they have the same powers as regular officers and wear a similar uniform.

Chief Superintendent Purcell added: “We are hugely grateful for the input they give to the service we deliver.

“People who volunteer as special constables tell us they get a great deal out of giving something back to the community and it’s great that over the past few years more and more people have wanted to give something back and help make a difference to the communities they live in.

“This is something we’re hugely grateful for and never take for granted, however it is important to recognise this volunteering role is over and above and separate to our police officer numbers.”

Figures in the House of Commons’ briefing paper on police service strength also showed that West Midlands Police lost 24 per cent in officer numbers from 2010 to September last year – and has 228 officers per 100,000 population.

Staffordshire Police has seen a 26 per cent drop in officer numbers over the past seven years, more than any other force in England and Wales.

It leaves the county with 142 officers per 100,000 population.

Only Wiltshire Police has fewer.

Lisa O'Brien

By Lisa O'Brien
Senior Reporter - @lisaobrien_Star

Senior reporter based at Shropshire Star's head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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