Suffolk: Traffic Police Numbers Rise

9 February 2015, 09:40 | Updated: 9 February 2015, 09:44

Suffolk was one of just two police constabularies to have more traffic officers by the end of a five-year period in which the numbers fell sharply across other forces.

Some forces showed 70% reductions, according to official figures highlighted by the RAC.

Total numbers of traffic officers for England and Wales dipped from 5,635 at the end of March 2010 to 4,356 at the end of March 2014 - a reduction of 23%.

Although some forces were employing a larger proportion of officers on traffic duties per workforce in 2014 than in 2010, a reduction in total police numbers meant that only two constabularies  - Suffolk and Warwickshire - actually had more traffic officers at the end of the five-year period than at the beginning.

The total figure at the end of March 2010 represented 3.9% of the workforce. By the end of March 2014, traffic police made up only 3.4% of officers.

Based on a Government response to a written parliamentary question, the figures showed that Devon and Cornwall police suffered the largest cut - 76% - taking its traffic officers from 239 in 2010 to just 57 in 2014.

In the 12-month period ending March 2012 and in the 12 month period ending March 2013, Devon and Cornwall had no full-time traffic officers.

Essex's traffic police numbers fell by 71%, Nottinghamshire's by 68% and Wiltshire's by 47%, with Avon and Somerset and Dorset dipping by 39% each.

The Metropolitan Police had 297 traffic police in March 2010 and 264 in March 2014, although the reduction in its overall police numbers meant the proportion of its traffic officers, at 0.9% of the total workforce, was the same in 2010 as in 2014.

Last week's latest road casualty figures for Britain prompted the Institute of Advanced Motorists to suggest that the reduction in traffic police could be a factor in child casualty rates rising.

The traffic officer figures were given earlier this month by Home Office Minister Mike Penning in answer to a question from Birmingham Labour MP Jack Dromey.

The figures related to the number, and proportion of, full-time police officers "within the traffic function''.

The RAC said the figures supported research conducted for the RAC's 2014 report on motoring which found that 60% of motorists thought there were insufficient numbers of police officers on the roads to enforce driving laws and as a result there was little chance of law-breakers being caught and prosecuted for anything other than speeding or running a red light - offences typically enforced via cameras.

RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams said: "These figures make a mockery of motoring law. If there are not enough police on the road, we can introduce all the new rules we want, but those breaking them just will not get caught.

"While cameras are good at catching speeders and drivers who go through red lights, offences that relate to general poor behaviour at the wheel still rely on a police officer to enforce them.''

He went on: "The majority of motorists in England and Wales claim to obey the law of the road and would therefore like to think the minority of drivers that flout the rules stand more chance of getting caught and properly punished than they seem to at the moment.

"Our research shows that millions of motorists are frustrated with the cut in traffic police numbers and believe the chances of drivers being pulled up for breaking the law are now minimal.''

AA president Edmund King said: "One of the biggest benefits of having more 'cops in cars' is that they catch more 'crooks in cars'.

"There is clear evidence from Home Office research that the most serious road traffic offenders are also the most serious criminals. It was an officer on road traffic duty that caught the Yorkshire Ripper, rather than detectives.

"We do have some of the safest roads in the world. However, there are indications that the reduction in road deaths may have reached a plateau.

"It is therefore crucial that we continue to press for better education, engineering and indeed enforcement. Speed cameras may catch those breaking the speed limit but do nothing to deter other forms of dangerous driving such as drink or drugged drivers or mobile phone abusers. We do need more cops in cars to act as a deterrent to dangerous driving.''