Lincoln residents in the Boultham area have become increasingly hesitant to report crime, citing concerns that the shortage in police staffing will lead to a lack of response.
Lincolnshire County Councillor Kevin Clarke (Labour) reports being contacted by multiple residents in the last few months who have suffered break-ins at their homes or gardens. Despite these incidents, they claim to have received minimal support from Lincolnshire Police.
Although official crime statistics suggest a downward trend, with 71 reported incidents in October compared to 86 in the previous month, Cllr Clarke cautions that this doesn't provide a complete picture.
Highlighting this issue, one resident emailed Councillor Clarke, sharing his experience of his van being broken into overnight. After reporting the crime to the police, the resident's only contact was a brief phone call from an officer who took over the case a week later.
"There are at least five properties in this area that I know have broken into and people think that there is no point in reporting it because nobody ever comes," stated Cllr Clarke, suggesting that the force may be lacking sufficient resources.
In April, representatives from the Police Federation of England and Wales claimed that UK police forces are roughly 30,000 officers below the number required to ensure public safety.
Cllr Clarke continued: "When you look at the official statistics, it looks like crime in the area is dropping, but it's not, because people just aren't reporting the crimes."
The Labour councillor addressed the issue of the van break-in in an open letter to Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones (Conservative), highlighting the recent cuts to the PCSO service.
Lincolnshire Police & Crime Commissioner Marc Jones. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite
In response, PCC Marc Jones said: "I have always made it clear to elected representatives that I welcome any opportunity to answer queries or address concerns they may have and I will reply to the councillor’s letter directly.
"I would also be very happy for Cllr Clarke to pass on the names and addresses of those people who have reported issues to him and I will take their cases to the force for answers.
"Meanwhile I think it is important to point out that residential burglaries across Lincolnshire are currently 21% down on pre-Covid levels."
Back in Boultham, Debbie, 50, also shared a recent incident where her garden was broken into while she and her family were away on holiday. She believes that the ward's proximity to the city centre, combined with the absence of a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) due to funding cuts, has contributed to the recent increase in crime and antisocial behaviour.
Charlotte Dixon, although unaware of the recent string of break-ins, recounted a disturbing incident from around Easter. She witnessed two men engaged in a fight outside her home during the early hours.
"There was a big fight and windows were smashed," she remarked. Living alone, Charlotte decided to call the police in response to the incident. However, she noted: "To my knowledge, they never came."
John and Mavis Fisher also observed the police's apparent lack of staffing, but noted that most issues in the area lean more towards antisocial behaviour than serious crime.
In response to these concerns, Chief Superintendent Kate Anderson, Head of Local Policing and Partnerships, said: "It’s sad to hear that some residents in our communities may feel disappointed with our response when they’re reported crimes to us.
"Whilst it would be inappropriate to talk about individual cases in a public forum, I would encourage anyone who has feedback about our service, the good and where we could have done better, to get in touch via our website.
"What I can do is explain how we allocate reports to our officers and how we deploy them, which will hopefully give some reassurance around our decision-making.
"The first thing to say is that we have people in our Force Control Room working 24 hours a day, every day, to take reports from the public via the phone and online.
"That information is assessed, and officers are sent out into communities based on threat, risk and harm. We make sure that any person or property at risk is attended to as quickly as possible.
"Of course, if we have a busy period of time and have officers already attending urgent jobs where members of the public may be at risk of physical harm, that is likely to impact on the time we can get to other reports, but we do make sure we respond as quickly as possible to reports.
"It’s correct that we have had to make changes to our PCSO model in line with budget cuts, but we have made sure that we place our remaining PCSOs in the areas of most need, and these changes do not impact on our response to emergency incidents because our PCSO colleagues are not our first resource to be called upon in that situation.
"A PCSO’s primary role is to contribute to the policing of neighbourhoods through presence in communities, problem-solving, listening, and working with people in the areas where they serve.
"I appreciate that waiting for officers to arrive when you are the victim of a crime can be frustrating and upsetting, but by waiting you are playing a vital part in ensuring that officers are helping those at immediate risk of harm, and we are grateful for your patience whilst this happens."