THE RECENT report by the Police Foundation showing the collapse of neighbourhood policing should come as no surprise.

Last week’s BBC Panorama highlighted the increase in reported crime with the decrease in suspects charged.

What was particularly shocking was the way police were busy prioritising crime, and how a lack of resources was leading to fewer investigations and convictions. The message was that if the crime was not serious, then they would not investigate it.

One of the primary duties of government is to provide a safe environment for its citizens. Policing is an important component of this. The government’s own inspector has identified that the police are under severe stress. The stress is leading to a crisis in policing which is due to a number of factors.

The first is the ongoing austerity program. This impacts directly on the police through real funding cuts which has seen a reduction of 21,500 offices since 2009, whilst police recorded crime rose 14 per cent in the past year alone.

Law changes have not helped with the restrictions in police pre-charge bail leading to a 65 per cent decrease in its use, and a reduced ability to protect witnesses and vulnerable victims. The last key point is the detective crisis. There is a national shortage of 5,000, and a severe loss of more experienced detectives. As detectives are the key investigators for medium and serious crime, this is not good news.

One of the Yorkshire areas featured in Panorama only managed to fill 50 per cent of its 250 detective slots. Detectives have been a perennial problem in the police service where careers are generally made in uniformed appointments.

The recent spate of police activity in Andover has highlighted local residents’ view that the police only react until forced to react. Many people have complained about drugs and social behaviour but there appears to have been little done. Hampshire’s performance itself is not inspiring.

During the last three years, recorded crime has risen by 35 per cent (nationally by 21 per cent), while the rate of charging is down by 21 per cent (nationally by 11 per cent). At the same time our Conservative police and crime commissioner attempted to divert £500,000 from frontline policing to his office costs. Fortunately, this was blocked. However, he has been subjected to a vote of no confidence by his police officers.

Moving forward, I do believe we should support our police. However, there needs to be a better dialogue. Many years ago, Northamptonshire launched a revolutionary approach to policing: they asked the public what their policing priorities should be. The answers were a shock and made them think again about what they were doing. Have we all lost that lesson?

Luigi Gregori, Charlton Road, Andover