A rise in crime is “inevitable” if crippling police budget cuts continue, Lancashire’s crime chief warned today.
Latest figures suggest an end to the downward trend in crime is already being noticed on the Fylde coast, as austerity measures start to bite.
And Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said unprecedented budget cuts of 20 per cent imposed by the Government mean the force is approaching a “tipping point” in the fight against criminals.
The latest published figures for Lancashire show a sudden rise in some crime across the North West, as reported by a national newspaper yesterday, is being mirrored on the Fylde coast.
In the six months from May to October, the number of recorded burglaries in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre soared by 20 per cent – up to 1,464 from 1,216 – compared to the same period last year.
The overall rise in crime was lower, at 5.5 per cent, but the trend was most noticeable in “acquisitive crime” – burglary, theft and robbery. Shoplifting was up 17 per cent to 1,238.
Mr Grunshaw, who has written to home secretary Theresa May to express his concerns, said: “The police force as a whole has never had to endure cuts on this scale and, while so far we have managed to ride the changes without seeing a detrimental impact on levels of reported crime, this cannot continue.
“Crime has been at an unprecedented low but, as the cuts really start to bite, so we will start to see year-on-year increases.”
The figures come after residents in Lytham were warned to be on their guard following a mini-spate of burglaries over the past week.
Brian McCormick, 50, has told of the moment he realised an intruder had been in his Tewkesbury Drive home, while he and his family watched TV unaware in the sitting room, at around 7.30pm on Sunday night.
The thief made off with a purse containing around £100 cash and some jewellery but Mr McCormick believes he disturbed them, causing them to drop a handbag and car keys in the front porch.
He said: “I just can’t believe the brazenness of it, they were literally five or six feet away from us.
“I was angry and in disbelief that it could happen in this area.”
Mr McCormick ran out to see if he could see the intruder and found a neighbour who said they had also disturbed an intruder in their home at around 7.40pm that evening.
Police are now appealing for witnesses to the incident.
Lancashire’s top policeman Chief Cons Steve Finnigan, who is also the national police representative for performance management, said of the latest figures: “A full assessment has to wait until we have a full year’s figures. But the sensible and professional thing to do is try and understand what is happening.”
Chief Cons Finnigan has also highlighted the rise in first-time offenders stealing basic food items to put on the table.
Mr Grunshaw said: “It is a fact that, while the Constabulary is facing significant financial challenges, so are Lancashire’s residents – and we cannot ignore the potential impact this has on crime levels.
“I do not believe now is the time for panic, but this Government needs to understand that high-performing, successful police forces need investment to maintain performance, not drastically diminishing budgets.”
Lancashire Police declined to comment on the matter.