Edinburgh police numbers fall by more than 5 per cent in three years, sparking warning of rise in crime
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Police numbers in Edinburgh have fallen by more than five per cent in just three years, sparking warnings that a failure to fund more officers risks an increase in crime.
Figures analysed by the justice and social affairs publication 1919 Magazine show police strength in the Capital fell from 1,164 in March 2020 to 1,103 in June 2023 – a drop of 61 – partly as a result of retirements and a recruitment freeze.
Lothian Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour voiced concern about the fall and the effect it could have in communities. He said: “People want to see police out and about but also able to respond to incidents as well and with lower numbers clearly it will mean they can go to fewer cases and carry out fewer investigations. I get reports all the time from constituents saying the police took hours to come or they didn’t come for certain kinds of crimes they’re not even looking at any more – and that’s not the police’s fault, it’t the number of police the Scottish Government are funding.
"In the next budget the Scottish Government have to commit to funding more police officers for Edinburgh or we’re going to see crime going up and people feel more unsafe.”
The figures also showed that in the Lothians and Borders division, officer numbers fell from 951 in 2020 to 900 in 2023, a reduction of 51 or 5.4 per cent.
David Kennedy, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said the reduction in police numbers across Scotland damaged the bond with communities.
He said: “Community officers go to events, get to know children, the parents, and they get to know the criminals. This all makes a positive difference, but when you take it away the barriers come up and rather than policing by consent, it becomes a force rather than a service.
“For the officers themselves, the eradication of the frontline means it’s a struggle for them to get their annual leave and go to the events in the community that are so important.“We’re not a pro-active service anymore, it’s just reactive, and that makes a difference in the longer term.”
Police Scotland has said the current recruitment freeze, coupled with a pause on training, would “free up training staff to support frontline colleagues by performing operational duties over Christmas and New Year”.
New Chief Constable Jo Farrell has also insisted: “Despite the funding pressures we’re facing, communities should be reassured that we are doing everything possible to direct resources to areas which encounter the greatest demand, and which carry the greatest risk, and that we continue to effectively reduce harm and protect the vulnerable.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said the administration had invested more than £11.6 billion since the creation of the single force in 2013. “Police Scotland is a vital service which is why, despite difficult financial circumstances due to UK Government austerity, we have increased police funding year-on-year since 2016/17, with £1.45 billion being invested this year.
"There are over 350 more officers than in 2007 and around 1,480 new recruits have joined Police Scotland since the beginning of 2022. Scotland continues to have more police officers per capita than England and Wales and, following the agreed pay deal of 12 per cent over two years, our officers continue to be the best paid at all levels.”