Only ONE police officer is on duty for every 10,000 residents at night

Revealed: Only ONE police officer is on duty for every 10,000 residents at night - when the most serious crimes are being committed

  • Figures show just a few dozen PCs can respond after hours to emergencies
  • In Manchester there is just one police officer for every 14,000 people 
  • Police leaders fear the thin blue line is set to become more stretched
  • Chiefs admitted there are ‘real challenges’ in keeping public safe at night

Shocking figures show for the first time that just a few dozen PCs can respond to emergencies after hours in some rural counties covering hundreds of miles, leaving the public at risk from serious crime and disorder.

Even in big cities the forces of law and order are just as thin on the ground after dark – when official statistics show most crime occurs. In Manchester there is just one police officer for every 14,000 people, and in London the ratio is one to 11,000.

Only one police officer is on duty for every 10,000 residents across much of the country at night, a Mail on Sunday investigation can reveal today

Police leaders and politicians fear the thin blue line is set to become even more stretched. Latest figures show violent crime is on the rise, along with offences that are harder to investigate such as cyber fraud and child sex abuse, while Britain remains on high alert for Paris-style terror attacks.

Chiefs are also bracing themselves for fresh Government cuts to their budgets that will mean further falls in manpower.

‘Labour is demanding no more cuts to policing and the reverse of the cuts already made.’

Recent cases illustrate just how few police officers are left to keep the streets of England and Wales safe at night, following Government budget cuts that have seen numbers fall from 143,734 in 2010 to 124,066 this year.

One PC told a trial earlier this month that as he and a colleague raced to a mansion where a millionaire had been shot in the early hours of the morning: ‘Believe it or not, we were the only car in Essex that was free at that time to go to anything.’

One PC told a trial earlier this month that as he and a colleague raced to a mansion where a millionaire had been shot in the early hours of the morning: ‘Believe it or not, we were the only car in Essex that was free at that time to go to anything.’

Protecting Chester... the force of eight: Sitting bemused in their briefing room, outnumbered by empty chairs, this was the police night shift expected to keep safe the city of Chester – population 120,000 – on one night last month

An illegal rave last spring was allowed to continue all night to the fury of neighbours kept awake, because Avon & Somerset chiefs did not have enough frontline officers to shut it down.

And Labour MP Holly Lynch had to call 999 for help when she went out on patrol with a lone West Yorkshire PC and he ‘found himself surrounded’ by an angry mob during a late shift.

Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation, that represents rank-and-file officers, said: ‘The first duty of a police service is to be able to respond to emergencies and we are finding with some cases we are unable even to do that if resources are not there or in the wrong place. 

'I think it is absolutely vital for chief constables to be honest with the Government so that people recognise that the service cannot continue in this way.’

Most crime takes place after dark, with eight out of ten car thefts, six out of ten robberies, and more than half of violent offences committed between 6pm and 6am, according to the Office for National Statistics. Yet troubling figures obtained by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act show just how few police officers are now on duty at night.

They were supported by 900 colleagues running control rooms or operating custody suites.

Detailed analysis shows the areas that have the lowest number of police relative to the local population.

Greater Manchester Police put out 193 response officers – known as the Tactical Patrol Team – across its 11 divisions that night in April.

Greater Manchester Police put out 193 response officers – known as the Tactical Patrol Team – across its 11 divisions that night in April.

With a population of 2,756,162 according to latest ONS figures, it means there was only one officer for every 14,281 residents across its north-west district, which is notorious for gangs and gun crime.

Even in Britain’s biggest force, the Metropolitan Police in London, there were only 763 response officers on duty in the capital that is home to an estimated 8.67 million people – a ratio of one police officer for every 11,368 citizens.

Next worst is Cheshire, where there were only 94 rostered response officers covering a population of one million. Last month the force posted on Twitter a photo of its night shift for the city of Chester – just eight officers in high-visibility vests in a room with dozens of empty chairs.

Next worst is Cheshire, where there were only 94 rostered response officers covering a population of one million. Last month the force posted on Twitter a photo of its night shift for the city of Chester – just eight officers in high-visibility vests in a room with dozens of empty chairs.

Members of the public were quick to show their surprise at how few police were on duty for a city with a population of 120,000.

One social media user commented: ‘That’s it for the night shift!?! Makes my heart heavy. Please stay safe all.’

Police tried to reassure concerned residents that they had other officers elsewhere, replying: ‘Thank you but not to worry we are supported by numerous other units also working through the night.’

The fewest overall number of officers was the 57 reported by Warwickshire – a county of 480 square miles. Bedfordshire, covering 477 miles and including the high-crime town of Luton, had just ‘57 officers, 8 sergeants and 4 inspectors’ at the peak of the night shift. The county shares traffic officers, dogs and armed units with Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Even when forces have hundreds of officers on duty, they often find themselves spending their nights responding to 999 calls made earlier in the day that the ‘early turn’ and ‘late turn’ shifts were unable to reach.

Police are increasingly called upon to cover gaps left by other public services after 5pm – searching for missing people or looking after those suffering mental health crises.

In one case investigated by the IPCC watchdog, Thames Valley Police sent a unit to a woman’s house after she rang 999 at midnight but operators could only hear ‘strange noises’. They were diverted to attend another emergency incident and when officers finally had time to reach the woman’s home nearly six hours later, they found she had hanged herself.

Police may even have to wait for back-up before they can intervene in a dangerous situation, particularly if they are ‘single-crewed’ in their cars to cover more ground.

And when they make an arrest, PCs now face long drives to find cells that are still open, taking them out of action for hours. North Yorkshire has three custody suites, down from six a few years ago.

One officer, PC Nick Manning, was disciplined for revealing just how little cover there was at night, when he wrote on Twitter: ‘Last 3 nights in North Dorset, 3 cops covering everything north of the A31.’

Mike Pannett, a former police sergeant who worked for both North Yorkshire and the Met, said: ‘I used to look forward to night shifts in the week, that was the time you could get out to mount operations and to prevent crime but with fewer officers that’s something which doesn’t happen any more.

‘They’re just catching up with a backlog of calls which the late turn hadn’t been able to deal with.’

Chiefs admitted last night there are ‘real challenges’ in keeping the public safe at night but pointed out that frontline PCs have back-up from civilian PCSOs as well as volunteers known as Specials.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on local policing, chief constable Simon Cole, said: ‘All forces have to deal with the realities of their budget when making operational decisions.’

However, Jonathan Foreman, senior research fellow at think-tank Civitas, said: ‘Chiefs and unions blame the lack of police at night on cuts and lack of resources. This is an excuse, not an explanation. 

'The problem is not really a matter of resources; it’s a matter of a policing culture that takes less account of what the public wants and needs.

‘There are always – somehow – enough to staff cynical, fashion-driven projects like investigations into dubious sex abuse accusations against ageing pop stars or allegedly racist remarks on social media.’ 

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