Are there more police now?

2 police officers Image copyright Getty Images

With some violent crimes like those involving knives rising, attention has turned to whether there are enough police officers on the streets.

Between September 2009 and September 2017, police forces in England and Wales lost more than 20,000 officers - a drop of 15%. Numbers of officers consistently fell during that period.

Annual figures which use March as a snapshot have been published for decades and those suggest that 2017 saw the lowest number of police officers since 1981.

Numbers of police community support officers (PCSOs), who patrol the streets, have fallen by 40% during this period.

These cuts came as part of austerity measures brought in by the Conservative and coalition governments from 2010, in an attempt to reduce the deficit.

In the rest of the UK, policing is devolved.

In Scotland, there were 30% more police officers in March 2018 than there were in 1985 - and since 2010 numbers have remained more or less stable.

There has been a recent fall though, with numbers of police officers in the first three months of 2018 at the lowest level since 2009.

In Northern Ireland, there are fewer police officers than there were 20 years ago, but the fall has been much smaller than in England and Wales.

Since 2017, the police service has grown very slightly. In September 2018, the most recent figures available, there were 122,395 police officers in England and Wales compared with 121,929 the year before.

So this does represent a reversal of the trend, although it is not a big increase. Numbers have not even recovered to 2016 levels and are far off the numbers of officers employed at the beginning of the decade.

PCSO numbers have continued to fall.

Overall police budgets, excluding counter-terrorism grants, fell by 20% between 2010 and 2015 when the overall policing budget was protected in real terms, although not every force was to benefit.

Last year, the government announced the biggest rise in funding to the police since 2010, of "up to" £970m more than the year before - some of which was pledged specifically to help recruit more police officers.

The figure is "up to" this amount because, while £452m comes directly from central government, the rest is based on police and crime commissioners (or some places the mayor) choosing to raise more council tax from their local population.

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