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COPS TOLD: DON'T PROBE CRIME; Force insists money-saving plan will make public safer.

Byline: Nick Dorman CRIME CORRESPONDENT

EXCLUSIVE by Nick Dorman CRIME CORRESPONDENT A POLICE force is under fire after telling 155 of its officers to stop investigating crime as part of a cost-cutting drive.

Bobbies with Leicestershire Police will instead spend their time on so-called "neighbourhood duties".

These include chatting to members of the public while on patrol, tackling low-level antisocial behaviour such as vandalism and nuisance neighbours, and giving crime prevention advice.

Incidents requiring investigation will be passed to a specialist unit - leading to fears that fewer crimes will be probed, and by fewer officers.

The move is intended to plug a gap on the beat as Leicestershire Police axes 300 of its 2,200 officers over the next two years in a bid to claw back some PS10million.

One former officer warned trained bobbies would end up wasting their time "swanning around at tea and biscuit meetings" and added: "Might as well hand in your warrant cards and become a PCSO."

Other critics say the shake-up means many crimes are only likely to be investigated if they are deemed serious or there is already a named suspect for officers to pursue.

There are also concerns the move will be copied by forces across Britain as they face similar budget pain.

Last night, Labour's Shadow Police Minister Jack Dromey said force bosses were "masking" cuts by keeping police on the beat while slashing the number solving crimes.

Concerned He said: "The public will be rightly concerned that these cuts mean fewer crimes investigated and more criminals getting away with it."

Police bosses insist they are responding to public demand to keep officers visible on the streets as a deterrent.

A source said: "They are getting these 155 officers to stop investigating crimes and instead spend as much time as possible on the beat.

"By doing this it'll give the impression to the public that officer numbers have not been cut, even though we are losing 300 overall in the cuts.

"So there will be fewer officers investigating crime and, you might fear, fewer crimes being solved."

While 300 officers will be ditched, Leicestershire Police is at the same time increasing the number of PCSOs on its books, known as "Blunkett bobbies" after David Blunkett introduced them in 2002. They have no powers of arrest.

The 155 bobbies being issued the new guidance on investigative work, mostly constables, will keep their warrant cards and the same pay and rank.

The will fear However, they will no longer be involved in making pre-planned arrests and attending live incidents.

more away Separate specialist units will carry out investigations and respond to emergency incidents.

A briefing document released by the force said: "Currently, less than 25% of neighbourhood officers' time is spent working on 'core neighbourhood' duties. By shifting tasks to other areas of the force it will free up officers' time to engage with local communities and to be more visible in their areas.

communitie visible i "T me so public "The changes will mean officers will spend more time on frontline duties than the national average."

it means criminals get with it m a ho nei But t " It was claimed the move would free up around 42,000 police hours for work in the neighbourhood.But the switch was blasted following its revelation on the Police Oracle website, which is used by serving and former officers and others in the criminal justice system. One stunned user wrote: "So who picks up the crime? Oh yes, it's the already overworked 24/7 response officers."

Another added: "So the police will not investigate crimes, which will free them up to concentrate on their core function.

"Am I missing something here or have I arrived in a parallel universe?" A third user fumed: "There will be less investigation unless it is of a serious nature or there is a named suspect responsible.

"The investigations are stacking up and this government is making it worse."

The anger was shared by other users who identified themselves as former police officers.

One, who said he was a former constable, wrote: "The first two things we swore to do when sworn in were to prevent and detect crime!

"Nobody cares about the former because it can't be quantified and now the latter is to be shelved as well. Words fail me."

Another ex-officer added: "Bad idea by Leics that also breeds resentment in other harder-working officers that will soon see their neighbourhood colleagues working 9 to 5 swanning around attending tea and biscuit meetings that achieve FA.

"Might as well hand in your warrant cards and become a PCSO. Reap what you sow."

. Reap what hief has s o " Leicestershire Police Chief Constable Simon Cole has insisted that the force is acting in response to public demand for more visible policing.

well warrant be He said: "This new way of working will allow the teams based in our communities to dedicate their time to working closely with neighbourhoods and partners to resolve issues at a local level.

e r ate osely partners "Protecting our communities remains at the heart of everything we do and I hope this shift shows our commitment and dedication to seeing this continue and improve."

Inspectora warned "ero poph " A 2013 report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary warned that budget cuts risked "eroding" neighbourhood policing, which it said prevented crime and helped to provide reassurance.

Might as hand in cards and PCSOs HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham flagged up the danger of forces ending up reacting to crime instead of trying to prevent it in the first place. Speaking at the time of the report, she B th en cri preven said: "Neighbourhood policing in our view is the cornerstone of the British policing a model. It is not a 'nice to have'."

A spokesman for Leicestershire Police said last night: "These changes have saved the force PS10million.

e has olicing ovide the AXE WOMAN: Theresa May "The force has remodelled how policing is delivered to provide the best possible service with the budget available.

"By March 2017 we will see 300 fewer officers working for the force."

The spokesman added that the reduction in numbers "will be done by natural attrition, for example officers moving or retiring".

feedback@people.co.uk

16,000 number of frontline officers lost in 5 years 36,000 total number of police jobs lost in 5 years PS300mamount cut from police budgets next yearThe public will fear it means more criminals get away with itosel"Might as well hand in warrant cards and be PCSOs

CAPTION(S):

AXE WOMAN: Theresa May

WORRIES: Dromey says police are masking cuts
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Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Feb 8, 2015
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