Victims of minor crime will no longer be visited by Cambridgeshire police as chiefs battle to scale back the budget.
Cambridgeshire Constabulary is rolling out a scheme it trialled in Peterborough across the county in a bid to save officers’ time.
Previously anyone affected by minor crime which is not an immediate emergency, such as theft, would receive a visit from an officer within a couple of days.
Chief Constable Simon Parr said: “We are going to start to take a tough line with whether we come out to see the public.
“Over the next few weeks or months if you want the police, either deal with it on the phone or make an appointment to come to us.
“There is so much to do, in particular our fight against the more dangerous and violent parts of the community.
“We have not had any complaints about the appointment system so far but we may as it becomes more frequent so we will introduce it slowly to get people used to it.
“Our currency can’t be money, we have £20 million less. Our currency is operational hours. How many hours can we get out of everyone we employ? That’s what started the appointment system.”
It was launched as a pilot at Thorpe Wood police station in January and has since been used at 10 other police stations.
It came under fire from the Police Federation, the group which represents constables, sergeants, inspectors and chief inspectors, which said the onus would be put on the victim to report the crime, driving down the number of incidents the police hear about.
But senior officers have defended the change which is part of a shake up of the force called Operation Redesign.
The constabulary had its budget slashed by £20 million to £100 million a year and has had to find savings.
Mr Parr said the appointments system will free up officers’ time to deal with serious crime.
The change will also see Peterborough’s police have more control over priorities in the city as to how resources are deployed.
Mr Parr said: “In Peterborough you can almost draw a line down the middle of the city with very contrasting priorities on either side.
“Why would I give one block target for the person in charge of Peterborough?
“We will also be breaking down the force-wide management.
“If there is a particular problem in one area there will be more flexibility to move resources anywhere in the county rather than in the individual divisions.”
Cambridgeshire police is also joining some of its departments with the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire forces, while also sharing facilities such as buildings with other partners like Peterborough City Council.
Mr Parr said the back office operations are the first place to make savings to protect front line policing.
Restoratative justice a ‘success’
A SYSTEM which reduces the number of criminals in the courts is being extended across the county.
Cambridgeshire police has trained 800 officers in the use of “restorative justice”, rather than punishing minor crimes and misdemeanour.
The scheme sees petty criminals doing something for the victim rather than being punished by the courts and ending up with a criminal record.
Chief constable Simon Parr said one example included a 16-year-old, who cannot be named, who stole £3 worth of goods from a shop.
He cleaned 100 shopping baskets for the shop rather than involve the courts.
The system saves money for both the Crown Prosecution Service and courts as well as time for the police officers.
Since it was started in February, 1,000 hours of police time has been saved dealing with just 68 incidents.