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Police 'keeping head above water' says commissioner John Campion

By Dominic Robertson | Kidderminster | Crime | Published:

West Mercia's police commissioner has said that resources have been stretched by the busy festive period, but that the force is "keeping its head above water".

John Campion said that while New Year's Eve did see occasions where West Mercia Police ran out of spare officers, the force was still able to deal with all the incidents it would normally have attended.

It comes after the West Midlands Police Federation said that a lack of officers meant that violent drunks avoided arrest on New Year's Eve.

Mr Campion, who was out with officers in Shropshire on New Year's Eve, said that the situation had not been replicated in West Mercia, but reiterated his plan to add more officers to the force through his budget – which is out for public consultation.

West Mercia Police cover Worcestershire - including Kidderminster, Bromsgrove and Redditch - Shropshire and Herefordshire.

Mr Campion said: "You cannot get away from the fact that it is an incredibly busy night of the year.

"Across West Mercia at the very peak we were receiving one 999 call every 37 seconds. At the peak of demand we had 366 calls between 11pm and 7am.

"Were there times when they ran out of resources to deploy? Yes, but there are mechanisms around prioritising where they deploy resources to deal with that.

"What I would say is we are fixing that."

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Uplift

West Mercia Police had around 2,400 officers in the mid noughties. The number has fallen to the current number of 2,031 officers.

Mr Campion wants that figure to increase to 2,145 by April 2020 – a move that is dependant on the public backing his plans for an increase in the amount of council tax they pay.

He said: "For me we have heard loud and clear that the public want more visibility and want more police officers in the community.

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"The chief constable has been clear, the police are keeping their head above water, but we are just doing that so it is right that I ask the public to spend a bit more so we can see that uplift in officer numbers.

"The figure is not one I plucked out of mid air. It is based on the views of the chief constable and the chief officer team looking at demand. It is based on the advice of him as the operational expert but also based on what we can afford.

"It is my job to then hold them to account and make sure the public see that improvement."

Mr Campion said that while he is "not obsessed" with officer numbers, he accepts the public want greater presence.

He said: "I think people are willing to pay that extra council tax because they want extra visibility, the larger presence, and the only way you can do that is with officers."

The commissioner also moved to reassure people about the level of crime in the area.

He said: "I have travelled the length and breadth of West Mercia and we are a very rural area.

"On New Year's Eve we went from Shrewsbury to Oswestry a couple of times and there is not much between, there are communities but they are spread out.

"It is difficult to be visible in the huge area we have got but the public should be reassured that we are a low crime area. You are more likely to be a victim of online crime."

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