Speeding arrests drop by half as police resources stretched to breaking point
Always watchful – Police Scotland officers patrol the Highland Games at Luss, Loch Lomondside. Pictures by Bill Heaney
By Bill Heaney
The number of people being booked for speeding offences on local roads has dropped by more than half.
MSP Jackie Baillie has highlighted new analysis by Scottish Labour which shows that policing in Scotland has become more reactive due to police cuts and centralisation.
The research shows that crimes that are detected through proactive policing work have fallen sharply since the formation of Police Scotland five years ago.
The number of recorded motor vehicle offences has fallen by over 168,000 (57 per cent) since 2013-14. The majority of the deficit is due to a decrease in motor vehicle offences such as speeding, or unlawful use of a motor vehicle.
Scottish Labour maintains it is due to the stretched force no longer being able to devote as much time to proactive policing, such as monitoring speeding and other road traffic incidents.
It follows a senior police chief describing the force as stretched, and admitting they cannot tell when police station counters will be staffed, a problem experienced locally in West Dunbartonshire and Helensburgh.
Calum Steele of the Scottish Police Federation, which represents 98 per cent of officers in Scotland, said rank and file officers had “nothing left to give” in the face of SNP cuts.
Jackie Baillie, pictured above left, said: “The decline in crime across Scotland is undoubtedly welcome, and in keeping with the current worldwide trend. However it would appear that the drop in numbers may have to do with the inability of the police to be proactive due to cuts to their services. Yet we all know that the problems still exist but they don’t have the resources to deal with them.
“For example, I am still being contacted by constituents concerned about speeding on their local roads. This is occurring throughout Dumbarton, Helensburgh and the Vale often putting lives at risk and there is little police enforcement because the service is stretched too thin.
“It is vital that our local communities are given the police presence and support that they need. Our police officers do a tremendous job but they need to be properly resourced by the SNP Government to do their job.”
James First told one newspaper: “Now we are seeing yet more negative results from the SNP slashing of police budgets. “[Chief Constable] Stephen House, pictured left, paid off a huge number of station assistants along with many other civilian employees, such as call takers, drivers and let’s not forget the property that was also sold off. End result was Police Scotland’s owner, Nicola Sturgeon, was happy with these savings. Now they are slashing police officer numbers. Police officers being used to answer telephones means they are not on the street. Police Stations closed so the public cannot attend and the police now need to do home visits. This one force [Police Scotland] is a shambles. It was a good paper exercise but a magnificent failure in reality.”
Scottish Police Federation chair Calum Steele added: “The decline in proactive police activity comes as no surprise. Police officers are stretched to breaking point and hardly have time to draw breath from the moment they start, to the moment they leave their work.
“The demands placed upon them are relentless and they have nothing more left to give. When every sinew is stretched to simply meet call demand it is inevitable that something has to give.
Police attending a major incident outside a football match in Glasgow.
“We have seen over 150 officers and approximately 30 vehicles removed from dedicated road policing activity in the past few years alone. We have fewer specialist vehicles and fewer collision investigators.
“The net effect is those that are left travel further to deliver service and vehicles become increasingly prone to breakdown, further restricting the ability to police.
“Whilst it is easy to look at the decline in road traffic offences on their own this risks missing the bigger picture as to why we need properly resourced and equipped officers.”
“We know not everyone who drives is a criminal, but nearly all major criminals drive.
“The reduction in resources means it is more likely those who engage in drug trafficking and rural crime like livestock, plant and fuel theft, as examples are more likely to enjoy free rein on our roads and increasing the misery they create in communities.
“The time has come to stop pretending that the police budget emperor is wearing the finest of clothes and admit that he is simply naked.”
Police Scotland presence at the Scottish Pipe Band Championships in Dumbarton.