Police may no longer respond to all burglaries, warns chief

Government cuts to the policing budget are forcing the service to make big changes to the way it works

Sara Thornton - Police
(Image credit: Max Nash/ Getty)

Burglary victims should not expect an automatic visit from the police, a top police chief has warned, as forces seek to find new ways to absorb the government's cuts to police budgets.

Sara Thornton, who chairs the National Police Chiefs' Council, has said that "real changes" to policing are needed if the service is going to continue providing a service to the public while protecting its shrinking number of officers and staff from stress.

Thornton told the BBC that the focus should be on protecting the public from harm and dealing with the growing number of complex crimes, including sexual abuse, terrorism and cyber-crime.

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This might mean that officers no longer visit a burglary victim if the perpetrator has fled and there are other ways of investigating the crime, she said.

"If we're really serious about putting a lot of effort into protecting children, for example, it might mean if you've had a burglary, for example, and the burglar has fled, we won't get there as quickly as we have in the past," she added. "Of course, we will still want to gather evidence, but we might do it in different ways."

Thornton, the former chief constable of Thames Valley Police – which covers the constituencies of Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May – said government funding for police in England and Wales had been cut by about 25 per cent in real terms over the last five years, with more cuts to come.

The latest Home Office statistics show that nearly 17,000 police officer posts have been lost since March 2010 – the equivalent of losing all of the officers currently policing Wales and Yorkshire.

Thornton's comments come as a separate BBC Radio 5 live investigation found that some police forces are using overtime to cover gaps caused by staff shortages. The overtime bill for officers and staff in England and Wales totalled almost £1bn over three years and increased by £6m last year.

The Home Office said it has asked the police pay body to see if more could be done to reduce the overall overtime bill.

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