Thin blue line: South Kesteven has one of lowest numbers of police officers in country
South Kesteven has one of the lowest levels of police manpower in the country, according to new figures.
House of Commons data recently showed that nowhere in England and Wales has fewer officers than Lincolnshire, with 141 per 100,000 people.
However, we can reveal that the rate in South Kesteven is even lower than that.
Numbers from a Freedom of Information request show there are 139 officers based in South Kesteven and North Kesteven combined, serving a total population of 257,838 (Office for National Statistics, 2018).
This compares to 185 officers in 2016, the highest level since 2014. Figures before 2014 were not available.
The district in the county with the lowest number of officers is South Holland, where 66 officers are based. They serve a population of 95,000.
These compare with 252 officers in Lincoln and West Lindsey, 168 in East Lindsey and 149 in Boston and South Holland combined.
Police do say that officers from other areas are deployed as needed – and that 30 more officers are about to join local policing teams across the county. It’s not known if any of those will come to South Kesteven.
Current county police and crime commissioner Marc Jones is bidding for re-election on May 6. He says 60 officers had been recruited in the county since last summer, with 120 more to come this year.
He added: “If events unfold as expected, we should see by 2023 the highest number of police officers available for the chief constable to deploy in Lincolnshire Police history, which is an incredible turnaround from the force on the edge of bankruptcy I inherited in 2016.
“We now receive a 16.5 per cent, £11m a year increase in funding from central government from when I was elected and I have successfully bid for around £14m in ‘one off’ funding to prevent and tackle crime on top of this.
“By next year we will see that rise to around £16m a year more, which is no small amount of money and is directly paying for more officers in our community.”
A police spokesperson reminded residents that “Lincolnshire is a safe county with a low crime rate”.
Commission rivals react to policing levels
The five contenders fighting to be the figurehead of Lincolnshire Police have reacted to news that the force has the lowest amount of officers per 100,000 people in England and Wales.
Current county police and crime commissioner Marc Jones has defended his record over the last five years and says he is securing an increase in police numbers.
He’s asking voters to give him a chance to continue the “transformation and modernisation” of the force, pointing to investment in drones and 4x4s and quick emergency response times.
Mr Jones, the Conservative candidate, said: “Having taken the force from the brink in 2016, I have overseen a transformation in the way Lincolnshire Police supports our communities, especially in rural areas, and I have a credible and deliverable plan to go even further.
“The next few years are critical to building on this, and preventing and tackling crime are clearly key to those plans.
“With officer numbers on the rise we can look forward to seeing more of them in our community, but visibility is only part of the story.”
Peter Escreet, candidate for the Reform Party, says the number of officers has visibly dropped in the past 20 years.
He said: “It’s all very worrying – especially the contrast with what I remember growing up here – you don’t see police any more.
“The police and crime commissioner should be screaming and shouting about these figures.”
He said it was not necessarily about money but a case of fairness, with the county sitting bottom of the table in terms of officers.
He added: “My question is, why aren’t we getting our fair share of funding and police?”
Labour and Co-operative Party contender Rosanne Kirk said: “People don’t feel safe – they don’t feel like reporting crimes and that’s horrendous. It’s very worrying that people feel like that but this is the feedback I am getting.”
She blames the “false economy” of cuts to public services – saying the police pick up the pieces when things such as youth services are ditched.
She added: “Lincolnshire has been left behind – we have got some very deprived areas.
“Our police officers work hard but they need the support and the resources behind them.”
Liberal Democrat contender Ross Pepper also believes the “root causes” of crime in the county need to be tackled.
He said: “It’s not just a policing issue – it’s an issue for the whole of the public. We need to make sure we have youth services, good education and that there’s a plan to tackle drugs.
“If you can drive down crime rates by tackling the root cause then you will still need more officers, but not as many.”
He said he feels sorry for our officers, adding: “They are under enormous pressure. I can’t put myself in their shoes to think how much stress they must be under.”
Several candidates raised the fact that the sheer size of the county makes it trickier to police – with officers left with a large geographical area to try to cover.
David Williams, standing for Lincolnshire Independents, raised this and said he’s not satisfied with the announced police recruitment.
He said: “We are the lowest funded force in the country – it’s always been an issue.
“We are only getting a proportionate share of the uplift in police officers – that means we are still at the end of the queue in terms of the proportion of officers we get.”
He called for “dynamic and innovative” solutions and feels that it is not possible to hang on to the hope that Lincolnshire will suddenly just get more officers.
He added: “There have to be measures that somehow mitigate the problems associated with a lack of police coverage.”
The Thin Blue Line in numbers
- There are 139 police officers based in South Kesteven and North Kesteven as of March 5, 2021. The most recent population estimate for South Kesteven is 141,853.
- Lincoln and West Lindsey has 252 officers, Boston and South Holland 149, East Lindsey 168.
- Lincolnshire Police says it will soon have another 30 officers for local policing – and that officers from elsewhere can be dispatched across districts, such as those in the economic and cyber crime crime units, protecting vulnerable persons, digital forensics department and the paedophile online investigation team.
- House of Commons Library briefing paper ‘Police Service Strength’, published in February, showed Lincolnshire had 1,073 officers as of September 30, 2020. That’s 141 officers per 100,000 – 42nd out of 42 force areas in England and Wales.
- The Metropolitan Police, in London, has the highest number of officers per 100,000 with 379.