Over the last week there’s been considerable discussion about police numbers in Crawley and whether we have enough to tackle the wave of drugs and violence we’re facing on our streets. The trigger for this debate was a remark I made following the latest stabbing and the need to bring an end to the decline into lawlessness.
While Sussex Police bosses have been at pains to insist there’s no issue with staffing levels, former senior officers and members of the public have subsequently reached out to me with more information which casts doubt on the credibility of what we’re being told.
The problem for Sussex Police is what we’re told defies sense. We’re told a loss of over 700 officers locally has had no impact upon police effectiveness, while simultaneously we’ve seen police responsiveness decline, the rise of gang violence and every time I go door-knocking I’m told of new locations in our neighbourhoods where drugs are being dealt. While Crawley has been through difficult periods in the past, I can’t remember a time it ever got this bad.
Next we’re told Sussex Police are recruiting 800 new officers–although, in truth it’s actually only a net increase of 200. Well, hold on a minute, how can we both have enough officers and at the same time need to recruit an extra 200? We better need them, our council tax is going up to pay for them. People aren’t stupid, claims that we have enough officers when we’re having to hire more comes across as dishonest, eroding trust in the good work individual officers do.
Even with the new recruitment we’ll be 500 officers short of the level we had just a few years ago and to try and claim that those cuts have nothing to do with people left bleeding on our streets or the spread of narcotics around our community is obvious nonsense.
In the meantime, the police have made themselves very visible this week, but without more officers they can only keep up the pretence for so long and I’m not going to stop pushing until we get the resources Crawley needs.