Chief constable to ask for council tax rise to protect officer jobs

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Taxpayers could be asked to pay more to avoid cutting police officer numbers in Northamptonshire.

It comes as crime figures are released which show the first annual increase in crime for eight years.

Chief constable Adrian Lee said: “The past year has been a challenge because of the financial difficulties. We always knew it was going to be a difficult year. The increase amounts to 280 crimes.

“It is a sign to the public that it has been a challenging year.”

The force needs to save £12m over the next four years due to budget cuts.

Mr Lee says he will be asking the new police commissioner, who will be elected in November, to increase the police council tax precept to safeguard the 100 police officer and 25 police community support officer jobs that were at risk.

Mr Lee says safeguarding frontline jobs should mean the force can go back to reducing crime levels.

He said: “Because we have underspent through a lot of good work, we have made a decision to delay the reduction in police officers and PCSOs.

“The hope is that we can make further savings and the new police and crime commissioner might support an increase in the precept to fund those posts.

“The evidence from the police authority’s consultation is that the public are prepared to pay for additional policing and for frontline officers and PCSOs.”

The figures show there were 49,571 recorded crimes in Northamptonshire in 2011-12, compared with 49,291 the previous year – and increase of 0.6 per cent. Until this year, crime had been consistently falling since 2003-04.

Overall crime fell in Corby, Kettering and East Northamptonshire this year but rose in Wellingborough by 2.9 per cent.

House burglaries in the county are down by 7.5 per cent thanks to the ongoing Operation Guardian, but violence is increasing. Robberies are up by 9.4 per cent and violent offences have risen by 5.3 per cent.

Tackling violent crime will be one of the force’s top priorities for the coming year.

Mr Lee said: “Getting into the face of criminals has given the public confidence in us and our position on burglary is much better than anywhere else in the country.

“That is going to continue but we also have to address the issue of violent crime. We don’t want to stop the work we are doing on Operation Guardian so the operations need to run parallel.

“Some of the offenders we are targeting for acquisitive crime are also the offenders for violence so focusing on offenders will enable us to progress both.”

Public satisfaction with Northamptonshire Police currently stands at 86.4 per cent, which is the highest level the force has ever scored.

Mr Lee says this is down to the work to reduce anti-social behaviour by 20 per cent and the success of Operation Guardian.