Reliance On RoboCops
A report published yesterday by the House of Commons Transport Committee concluded that while the number of detected road traffic offences has decreased in recent years, this may not represent a fall in the number of offences actually being committed.
The report comes after several months of investigation by the committee which includes Lincoln MP Karl McCartney. The committee have raised concerns that the number of specialist road policing officers has fallen and this reduction may have led to many offences going unreported. Deputy Chief Constable Garry Forsyth of Humberside Police gave evidence as part of the inquiry and stated that nationally the numbers of road police officers had gone 'down by about 1,300 officers since 2010'.
When asked to comment on how the reduction in policing has impacted on crime levels, Deputy Chief Constable Forsyth said, 'We are much better at utilising technology to target resources. Things like ANPR are enormously beneficial for us, and when we start to populate that with information from other agencies it means we can still be quite effective.'
In 2015 there were 55 police officers in the road policing team in Lincolnshire Police. When contacted by LincsMag, the force was unable to give current staffing numbers due to changes in operational policing locally. Lincolnshire Police is part of the East Midlands Operational Support Service (EMOpSS) which means officers work in conjunction with colleagues from Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire police forces.
The parliamentary committee behind yesterday's report expressed concerns over the wide variation in the way police forces recognise the importance of road policing. Deputy Chief Constable Garry Forsyth explained that as Chief Constables are operationally independent the prioritisation of resources was a decision taken at a local level.
An Issue For Politicians?
With the upcoming election of a new Police and Crime Commissioner in Lincolnshire, the issue of road safety has become one for politicians. Detective Chief Constable Forsyth explained, 'They [Chief Constables] have a finite amount of resource, and they have to make choices as to where they are going to point that resource. For some places, if there is a particularly passionate chief constable around the roads policing issue who has a particularly active community generating a high level of complaints to the police and crime commissioner, or there is a high level of public interest around a certain area, they may choose to devote more resource to roads policing.'
According to Lincolnshire Police, since the start of this year there have sadly been fifteen fatal road traffic collisions in Lincolnshire. This figure is an increase on this time last year when there had been nine fatalities in the county.
Whilst there is no proven link between numbers of police officers and levels of safety on our roads, the Transport Committee members are very concerned. Karl McCartney MP, Lincoln's Member of Parliament said: 'We could always do with more specialist traffic enforcement officers in the County to tackle serious traffic crimes, and I am concerned about the increase in the number of fatal road accidents since the start of the year. However, what are considered low level traffic crimes such as driving without insurance or making false whiplash injury claims are also committed by those who are engaged in serious traffic crimes. It means we cannot turn a blind eye to any traffic crime.'