The Daily Telegraph: Police bureaucracy pushing up 'cost per crime' statistics

Monday, 9 November, 2009

A failure to reduce police bureaucracy has resulted in an increase in the cost of tackling crime, figures suggest.

For some types of crime, the average cost of dealing with an incident has increased by more than 50 per cent in four years.

The figures, obtained by the Tories, show sharp rises in staffing costs per incident - as opposed to equipment or business costs - suggesting that paperwork and bureaucracy is a growing burden.

Some violent offences now cost the taxpayer more than pounds 18,000, about half of which is spent on staffing.

It is another blow to the Government's promises to reduce police red tape and comes just a month after it was disclosed that the average officer now spends as little as six hours a week on patrol.

In 2004/05, the average staff cost for dealing with a serious violent attack was pounds 5,890 but that had increased by 59 per cent to pounds 9,376 by 2007/08.

The average staff cost for tackling a less serious violent incident increased by 22 per cent from pounds 178 to pounds 216.

The staff cost for cases of fraud and forgery was up 57 per cent, from pounds 324 to pounds 508 and the staff bill for dealing with criminal damage increased 14 per cent over the period from pounds 91 to pounds 103.

The figures relate to the average cost per incident, so should not be affected by any rise in the number of offences or changes in staffing levels, and the 2004-05 figures have been inflated to 2007/08 values to provide a more accurate comparison.

David Ruffley, the shadow policing minister, said: "Despite five major reviews by this government into police bureaucracy the cost of red tape keeps on rising remorselessly. In the last four years bureaucracy imposed on the police has increased the staff cost of dealing with criminal incidents.

"That is why we promise to cut unnecessary form filling, which wastes police time.''

Matthew Elliott, the chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "The police should not be tied up in paperwork when there is so much else they should be doing to keep our streets safe.''

The figures appear to illustrate the demise of one of the most traditional principles of policing - pounding the beat to provide a visible and reassuring presence.

Police leaders said that officers were now more likely to be involved in "fire brigade policing'', where they were required to race from one incident to another with no time for routine patrols.