Drop in officer numbers 'could see increase in organised crime'

Since the creation of Police Scotland in April 2013, numbers have dropped from 17,324 to 16,363 – 250 less than the previous quarter.

The general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has warned of the potential impact of a further drop in officer numbers.

Since the creation of Police Scotland in April 2013, numbers have dropped from 17,324 to 16,363 – 250 less than the previous quarter.

And David Kennedy – the head of the organisation representing rank and file police officers – said if there are further drops, that could see an increase in organised crime activity.

“Community policing is the cornerstone of the police service,” he told 1919 Magazine.

“The bottom line is the intelligence on organised crime groups (OCGs) and terrorism comes from the communities.

“If you don’t have community police officers out there patrolling and picking up on that intelligence, then they’re missing out on so much.

“We’re finding OCGs coming in from far away, entering communities, knowing there’s no police, and actually setting up whatever they want to do knowing that nobody knows.

“There’s nobody knocking on the door. Or even saying, ‘how are you doing?’

“It’s basics and we are totally missing out on that. And that is the basics that you pick up when officers would deal with shopkeepers; deal with schools.

“The intelligence you pick up from interacting with kids during a (road) crossing is unbelievable.”

Mr Kennedy added: “You don’t wake up one day and say, ‘I’m going to rob a bank’ or, ‘I’m going to make a bomb.’

“It starts at the low-level – people doing the small things.

“My biggest fear is we are falling into the trap that we can only go to the big things. And then what will happen is maybe not today, but five or ten years’ time, we’re going to have really bad criminals within Scotland.”

But a spokesperson for the Scottish Government pointed to a near £100m increase in police funding in this financial year – up from £1.46bn to £1.55bn.

“The chief constable confirmed that this investment would enable Police Scotland to restart recruitment, and they recruited almost 200 new police officers last month,” they said.

“Scotland continues to have more police officers per head of population than England and Wales.

“Police Scotland continues to dispose of properties no longer fit for purpose or required for operational policing, while at the same time reinvesting in purpose-built properties to deliver modern premises capable of delivering more joined-up public services.

“Decisions on the deployment of resources are a matter for the chief constable.”

Speaking in February at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority board, Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell said: “Our primary investment will always be in police officers.

“As chief constable, entrusted with significant public funding, I have a duty to ensure I maximise the number of experienced officers available to the frontline through the right investment in non-warranted support.”

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