Yorkshire’s biggest police force does not have the resources to properly investigate day-to-day crimes because it is spending so much time dealing with an ever-growing number of complex cases, its most senior officer has admitted.
A fall in victim satisfaction levels in West Yorkshire has been blamed on the county police force’s declining response rate to vehicle crimes and problems with the 101 phone service that left many callers unable to get through.
The proportion of crime victims who said they were happy with the support provided has dropped by more than five per cent in the last year, from 87.6 per cent in the 12 months to June 2015 to 82.5 per cent for the same period this year.
Temporary chief constable Dee Collins has now been challenged to set out detailed plans on how the sharp decline in victim satisfaction can be halted.
In a report on West Yorkshire Police’s performance, crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: “Following the period of cuts to the police’s resources which we have experienced, I accept that difficult decisions have been made about policing priorities, but we cannot allow falling victim satisfaction to go unchecked.
“The overall victim satisfaction rate for West Yorkshire Police still compares well to other similar forces, but we need to be assured that we are not neglecting the victims of particular types of crime within our communities.”
People are increasingly calling the police because of cuts to other services.Temporary Deputy Chief Constable John Robins
The report was presented by the commissioner to West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Panel yesterday, prompting dismay from some members.
Independent member Roger Grasby said: “This probably represents the most disappointing set of figures you’ve ever presented.”
The report said changes in satisfaction levels were attributed to different factors, “such as the public’s ease of contact with the police (e.g. through 101), and in particular, changes to West Yorkshire Police’s response to attending the scene of certain vehicle crimes”.
Mr Burns-Williamson wrote: “At our quarterly performance meeting in August, the T/Chief Constable made the point that the volume of complex cases which West Yorkshire Police is working on impacts on the resources available for other investigations.”
It was a point repeated by Temporary Deputy Chief Constable John Robins when questioned by the panel.
He said a more proactive approach had led to a rise in present day and historic child sexual exploitation cases, and the demands on the force were changing.
“We’re starting to see, I think, some impact with regards to other services,” he said. “People are increasingly calling the police because of cuts to other services, particularly regarding vulnerability and safeguarding.
“What we can’t do is let down vulnerable people in particular.
“There are missing persons cases every day of the week. All this has an impact on other police work.”
Mr Burns-Williamson’s report also highlighted the rise in the number of 999 calls in the last three months, rising by more than six thousand to 97,245 from just 91,243 in the period of April-June 2015.
He wrote: “There are a number of factors contributing to this recent uplift in 999 calls, which unfortunately includes problems with the 101 facility which has meant that some people have rung 999 after getting frustrated with 101.”
He said that although performance was improving overall, demand had increased slightly in the last quarter and his office had seen an increase public concern over call wait times.
Issues with the 101 service were highlighted by panel member Coun Steve Tulley as he raised wider concerns about staffing levels at the force.
The meeting had earlier heard that West Yorkshire Police has lost around 2,000 officers and police support staff since 2010 due to dramatic cuts to its central funding.
Coun Tulley said: “People in my community are using 999 out of desperation because they can’t get a response anywhere else. We’ve got people running around totally out of control.
“Have we got enough bodies on the ground? If we’ve got 2,000 less, we can’t do what we did.”
Mr Robins said the force was trying to balance the different demands and crime types emerging, such as cyber crime, with the continuing need to have a presence in communities despite the smaller workforce.
He said: “It’s the constant challenge every district commander has where the day-to-day job is changing in front of them all the time.”
Panel chairwoman Coun Alison Lowe said: “It seems the police are forced to work in a much more focused way on vulnerability and less on other crime types.”
The force has started recruiting from the general public for the first time in years, and hopes to take on 300 extra officers by next year.
Bosses also said this month that they were having to draft in dozens of new staff to deal with the upsurge in emergency and non-emergency calls.
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