Policing could become “irrelevant” as forces struggle to cope, leaving huge numbers of crimes unsolved, a new report has warned.
The report from the Commons Home Affairs Committee said police are “struggling to cope” as forces in England and Wales have lost at least a fifth of their neighbourhood policing capacity on average since 2010.
Without additional funding, there will be dire consequences for public safety, the report warned, accusing the Home Office of a “complete failure of leadership”.
Its inquiry found “volume” offences including robbery and vehicle-related theft are increasing at an alarmingly steep rate.
While recorded crime is up by nearly a third (32%) in three years, charges or summonses have fallen by 26% and the number of arrests is also down, according to the assessment.
The report highlighted the importance of neighbourhood teams in tackling terrorism and gang crime.
It said: “It is absolutely vital that this cornerstone of British policing is reaffirmed throughout the country, to ensure that trust and legitimacy is maintained.
“This is particularly important in communities in which distrust of the police – and in public authorities more widely – is rife, and in which those local links are all the more important.
“Nevertheless, in all neighbourhoods, without local engagement, policing is at risk of becoming irrelevant to most people, particularly in the context of low rates of investigation for many crimes.”
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the committee, said: “Police officers across the country are performing a remarkable public service in increasingly difficult circumstances, but forces are badly overstretched.
“Crime is up, charges and arrests are down, and the police service is struggling to respond effectively to emerging and growing challenges, such as online fraud and online child abuse. Policing urgently needs more money.”
The committee found that internet child sexual abuse is reaching “epidemic” levels, while the proportion of fraud cases investigated is “shockingly low”.
It said policing is suffering from a “complete failure of leadership” from the Home Office, saying: “As the lead department for policing, it cannot continue to stand back while crime patterns change so fast that the police struggle to respond.”
Urging ministers to prioritise policing in the Autumn Budget, the report said: “Without additional funding for policing, we have no doubt that there will be dire consequences for public safety, criminal justice, community cohesion and public confidence.
“Policing is struggling to cope in the face of changing and rising crimes, as a result of falling staff numbers, outdated technology, capabilities and structures, and fragmented leadership and direction.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has already been clear that he will prioritise funding for the police. We have been on the front foot in engaging with police.
“The policing minister has spoken to leaders in every force in England and Wales to better understand the demand and changing nature of crime faced by forces.
“We are now working closely with the police to gather the evidence to ensure they continue to receive the resources they need at the next spending review.”
The department added that the Government had delivered a £460 million increase in overall police funding in 2018/19, including increased funding for local policing through council tax.