Burglaries may get 'lighter approach' as police chief admits staff at breaking point

19 September 2017, 23:27

One of Britain's biggest police forces is warning it has reached tipping point due to financial pressures and an ever-increasing workload.

The Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police admitted that crimes such as burglaries may no longer be treated as a priority because of increasing demands from mental health patients, missing people and the threat of online extremism.

Talking about the budget cuts, Chief Constable Andy Marsh told Sky News: "The number of officers in neighbourhood policing will be affected.

"There will be even less patrols by officers. Those things are all in jeopardy.

"One of the impacts is that in prioritising people's safety by attending to incidents like domestic violence, for crimes such as burglary and vehicle thefts we will have to take a lighter approach."

He added: "Officers want the best. They're in policing to make a difference, but they're stretched to breaking point. They're not getting their days off, annual leave when they want it, so they're under huge strain."

Around 40% of the Avon and Somerset force have sought professional help for stress.

PC Jay Harvey is one of those: he often works well over his hours for a team that is understaffed in Weston-super-Mare.

PC Harvey told Sky News: "It is very draining, going to mental health jobs, different incidents, especially traumatic ones.

"It does have an impact on us. I've noticed it in colleagues, I've noticed it in myself... I'm not afraid to say that I've sought counselling for one particular job that caused me a lot of stress. I've got no shame in saying that."

In Weston-super-Mare, the police emergency response team is clearly under pressure.

In a three-hour period, there are three call-outs, all to patients with mental health issues.

Comforting and reassuring them is a slow and time consuming process, meaning often there are no resources left for officers to provide a presence on the streets.

The threat of extremism is also placing huge amounts of pressure on police forces up and down the country, which are already having to make millions of pounds of savings.

The Dorset police force is facing a possible merger with neighbouring Devon and Cornwall, while earlier this year a detective inspector in the Midlands warned that many officers there were contemplating suicide because of the strain they were under.

The Government said: "We protected overall police spending in real terms since the 2015 Spending Review, with Avon and Somerset Police receiving £4.5m more in total direct resources funding this year compared with 2015-16, and we have announced additional funding for counter-terrorism policing."

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