Feature: How have North Yorkshire Police changed after budget cuts?

Police in North Yorkshire (s)
Police in North Yorkshire (s)

North Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable Dave Jones explains how the force is adapting to £20m in government cuts to their budget.

Residents in Harrogate were invited to find out how policing is changing in North Yorkshire at an exhibition this week.

The number and type of incidents police deal with, the different roles withing policing and the use of technology to target criminial activity were all be addressed during the exhibition.

Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police (NYP) Jones explained that the idea behind ‘Policing in North Yorkshire’ was to address concerns about budget cuts and explain their plans for the future.

In a recent report on Police Performance for the year, it was revealed that crime has increased in Harrogate by 2.6 per cent.

However, despite this, the report also highlighted that 83 per cent of what the police deal with is now none crime related.

Chief Constable Jones said the exhibition was launched to explain this shift in how the police are working and the increased pressures on resources.

He said: “People are not naive. They watch the TV and they read the news and there is a general concern about the cuts. Also, policing has changed and it may have been a while since people knew that and had been briefed on that so we are trying to show them what it’s going to look like.

“Myself or the commissioner will be there at the exhibiton to take questions but we are there to promote a conversation with the public.

“Most people have a perception that the police does nothing but crime but, in fact, that’s only a fifth of what we do and we want to explain that to them.”

Crime in North Yorkshire

Last year, NYP dealt with 225,000 incidents ranging from shoplifting to murder cases, as well as playing a key role in major events such as the Tour de France.

Despite crime accounting for less than a quarter of the force’s activity so far this year, there demands on the police are changing with society.

In the report on police performance it was revealed that burglary, vehicle offences and anti-social behaviour had reduced while sexual offences and cyber crime had increased.

Chief Constable Jones said: “Harrogate does not have a boundary that stops the internet so we need to think how we can provide a more 21st century response to this risk.

“We allow the internet into our homes every day so we need to start working with parents to make people feel safe to use it.

“We have also noticed a big increase in the reporting of sexual offences but that is due to a greater confidence in the public to report historic crimes.

“As a result we are investing heavily in technology so we can target our resources to where they are most needed.”

Budget reductions

Like every police force in England and Wales, North Yorkshire Police are preparing for major budget cuts over the next five years.

As a result, Chief Constable Jones explained that the force have had to find a new way of working to respond to these, including operating on smaller budgets.

Despite North Yorkshire being one of the safest counties in the country, NYP have been forced to shift their resources to continue delivering their service.

“We’re dealing with £20m in cuts over time, give or take the emergency budget in July, so we have to reshape the way we are delivering our services,” Chief Constable Jones said.

“However, there’s some interestinf facts that have come from this debate, such as it only costs the public 48p a day for this wonderful service.

“Our budget is very challenging but we’re doing OK and I think I can say that we are still good value for money.

“Unfortunately, the public have voted for austerity so there is less money for policing. There is also less money for the fire and ambulance service which has an impact on us in the local authority. We can still provide a really good service to the public to meet these new challenges but there does have to be a different approach.

Shifting resources

The Chief Constable explained that, to respond to the cuts, the police are working hard to find more ‘efficient and effective way to protect communities’.

As a result there has been a shift in resources to focus on crimes that can take place online and not just walking down the high street.

The police are also investing in different technology to cope with the challenges as well as sharing their resources with other forces.

Chief Constable Jones said; “The move is reflecting what we are already aware of. There’s an issue in children safely using the internet because criminals can operate in a particular way.

“In response, we have already set up a cyber crime unit and that is the direction we are trying to move in, so we are having to shift resources.

“We are still trying to continue our front line committment to neighbourhood policing but in order to do that we need to do things slightly different.

“We are using mobile data so police do not keep having to come back to the station and this investment in technology is going to be important for the future.”

Plans for the future

Despite the budget cuts and challenges facing police, NYP are hoping the exhibition will inform residents of the type of service that will be provided for them.

Continued investment in the right technology to deal with different demands is a common theme for the police that will continue to be pursued.

However, to do this, Chief Constable Jones explained that some police officers’ roles would be changing as well as the way the force operates.

He said: “We are changing the way we do things because we don’t need as many people doing things that they would have done or we are now working with other forces.

“Our estate may also have to reduce over time and we may have to move out of expensive buildings to save money but we have been able to plan for this.

“In the future we are likely to be a larger police force than Cleveland and Humberside but we are in a good position because we have been planning and have been productive.

“We need to shrink together with other police forces and partners to provide a good service. The public expects us to work together and we will be doing so to maintain services.”