The Home Secretary is facing calls to explain why a major report on violent crime fails to make a single reference to officer numbers.
The study, which is meant to be a 114-page blueprint to make Britain’s streets safe, includes detailed sections of a range of possible factors including the emergence of social media and changes in the drugs market.
But ministers have come under fire after it emerged the review contained no analysis of any impact from reductions in officer numbers.
The row comes hours after the Home Secretary faced embarrassment over a leaked Home Office letter suggesting cuts to police numbers have ‘likely contributed’ to a rise in serious violent crime – directly contradicting Ms Rudd’s own comments on Sunday that there is no evidence to support such a claim.
Ms Rudd denies having seen the document, which was prepared by officials as part of preparations for the new strategy and says offenders may have been ‘encouraged’ by the lack of police resources and fall in charge rates.
The leaked paper, entitled Serious Violence; Latest Evidence On The Drivers, said: ‘Since 2012/3, weighted crime demand on the police has risen, largely due to growth in recorded sex offences.
‘At the same time officers’ numbers have fallen by 5% since 2014.
‘So resources dedicated to serious violence have come under pressure and charge rates have dropped. This may have encouraged offenders.’
It was ‘unlikely to be the factor that triggered the shift in serious violence, but may be an underlying driver that has allowed the rise to continue’.
MOST POPULAR TODAY ON YAHOO
- Police shoot man dead in Romford after he ‘made threats and claimed to have a gun’
- Van driver arrested outside Buckingham Palace for ‘public order offence’
- British Isis ‘Beatle’ shows no remorse for violence and defends slavery in new interview
- Two killed and five ill after ‘carbon monoxide leak’ in London property
- ‘Not helpful’: Boris Johnson criticised by minister for labelling Jeremy Corbyn ‘Kremlin’s useful idiot’
Arguing it was a ‘complex area’ which is ‘not all about police numbers’, Ms Rudd told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘You cannot arrest your way out of this.’
Following a speech to unveil the new strategy, Ms Rudd said the Government recognised officers had come under additional pressure following a rise in reporting of crime.
She said she had addressed this by ensuring forces ‘have the resources when they need them’.
She added: ‘There are elements where police forces can do more to help themselves – there’s efficiencies they can put in place, there is new equipment they can put in place.’
The leaked document said that it was unlikely that ‘lack of deterrence’ was the catalyst for the rise in serious violence and noted that ‘forces with the biggest falls in police numbers are not seeing the biggest rises in serious violence’.
Between 31 March 2010 and 2017, police officer strength fell in the 43 UK forces from 143,734 to 123,142.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: ‘The Government’s own analysis seems to suggest that cuts to police officer numbers has had an effect in encouraging violent offences.
‘If true this blows apart the Tories’ repeated claims that their cuts have had no effect.
‘Cuts reduce police effectiveness and their ability to apprehend criminals. It also undermines the reassurance and deterrent effect that a police presence can have.’
The Home Office said it would not comment on a leaked document but ministers have denied a link between police numbers and the rise in violent crime.
Ms Rudd had used a Sunday Telegraph article to say: ‘In the early Noughties, when serious violent crimes were at their highest, police numbers were rising. In 2008, when knife crime was far greater than the lows we saw in 2013-14, police numbers were close to the highest we’d seen in decades.
‘So while I understand that police are facing emerging threats and new pressures – leading us to increase total investment in policing – the evidence does not bear out claims that resources are to blame for rising violence. ‘
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid maintained that position, telling BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘For anyone to suggest that this is caused by police numbers, it is not backed up by the facts.’
Policing Minister Nick Hurd acknowledged that the system was ‘stretched’ but told the BBC it was ‘categorically not the case’ that a reduction in numbers was behind the rise in violent crime.