CRIME in Dorset is rising as savage cuts to the police force take hold, it has emerged.
Inspectors found that in the first year of savage cuts being forced on Dorset Police there was a rise in general crime locally as well as increases in robbery and burglary.
Communities fear this will only get worse while the Dorset Police Federation said the cuts to services were ‘sheer lunacy.’ Dorset Police is set to lose 21 per cent of its officers – more than twice the national average.
Numbers will be slashed by 310 despite the force being one of the few with a rising crime rate.
And a further 270 staff and Police Community Support Officers will be cut to ensure the force saves £20million between March 2011 and March 2015.
There are also plans to close eight front counters.
The Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) report examined police forces a year on from when cuts were announced.
It revealed 5,800 officer posts will be lost across England and Wales but Dorset is losing a higher proportion than most others.
The report also showed crime in the county went up two per cent in the year to December 2011, compared with an average three per cent fall.
Crime figures rose in just 11 of the 43 police forces’ areas in England and Wales.
Victim-based crime in Dorset went up three per cent, robbery eight per cent and burglary two per cent.
The HMIC report said: “The first job of the police is to reduce crime and keep the peace, and in 2010 Home Secretary Theresa May stated she expects forces and authorities to make cuts while still reducing crime, and without impacting on the front line.”
Victims of crime said they were unsurprised by the figures, having seen first-hand how the service has been affected by cuts.
Reg Potter, whose Sutton Poyntz home was burgled last year, said: “I’m relatively new to the area, and I’m amazed at the level of crime there is here.
“Everyone here knows someone who was burgled, everyone here has a story to tell about violence.
“It’s really bad that they’re cutting the police force. They need to stop. But what do we do? Will our voices be heard?
“What happened to me has really affected my life. But I don’t feel like there is any justice for that.
“And unfortunately the hands of the police officers are tied too.”
Littlemoor resident Tony Alee, 69, said: “I think the figures are accurate – I believe the level of crime has gone up.
“I had trouble on Friday night when someone punched my motor home parked outside my house.
“Another resident had the wing mirror knocked off their car.
“There’s no response to crime by the police. On Friday they did get here within about 15 minutes, which I thought was quite reasonable for a Friday night.”
Liz Jackson, also of Littlemoor, said: “The hands of the police officers are tied. Their resources are stretched.”
Littlemoor resident Jan Hinton said: “I don’t know about Dorset in general, but I know crime has gone down in Littlemoor, which of course is a good thing.”
Dorchester town councillor David Taylor, a member of the town’s Crime Prevention Panel, said: “The local force was reduced quite substantially last year in terms of recruitment and PCSOs.
“But if something is going on we can still deal with it pretty quickly and Dorchester has quite a low level of crime. People need to be vigilant and aware.”
Assistant Chief Constable of Dorset (Operations) James Vaughan said latest figures showed that crime had reduced and that crime levels are now at a 14-year low.
He described the increase in crime for the year ending December 2011 as a “blip.”
Mr Vaughan added that any front counters that have been closed or had their hours reduced have been replaced by other facilities in the community.
'Cuts are sheer lunacy'
CHAIRMAN of the Dorset Police Federation Clive Chamberlain said: “At a time when crime is rising, for a government to force cuts on the police force is absolute sheer lunacy.
“Less police officers equals more crime.”
He added that sustaining a police force to protect the country is among the government’s ‘first duty’.
“We have never said we can’t cut the police. We have to take our fair share like everyone else, but they have done it to such a magnitude.”
Mr Chamberlain said crime was rising despite individual officers ‘doing their utmost’ in the face of the cuts.
“The problems will get worse and rural areas will suffer the most.
“I find it deeply worrying as a member of the community and a police officer. I think what they are doing is criminal.”