Road safety '˜still important for West Yorkshire Police despite lack of specialist officers'
West Yorkshire Police has defended the way it tackles criminality on the county's road network after figures showed a dramatic fall in the number of specialist roads officers it employs.
Figures released by the Home Office show that Yorkshire’s largest force employed just five full time equivalent roads policing officers as of last March.
This is down from ten the previous year and a dramatic fall from the total of 225 in March 2014. In 2010, 315 specialist roads officers were employed.
The force says the apparent drop is down, in part, to a reorganisation which means that members of specialist teams, such as roads, firearms and dogs, are now part of ‘flexible mixed speciality’ units in its Safer Roads and Neighbourhood Support (SRANS) teams.
The SRANS teams are split into geographically based teams with 210 Constables, 25 Sergeants and five Inspectors, with plans to increase that by a further 25 officer posts.
A spokesman said: “Since 2010 West Yorkshire has lost over 1,000 police officers and 2,000 police staff. Road safety remains an important policing service but the cuts have required us to reorganise our force structure.”
He added: “On a daily basis the safer roads officers provide support to colleagues in districts and coverage of the motorway network.
“West Yorkshire Police recorded 9,206 offences relating to the use of a mobile phone whilst driving in the last 3 years, with 3,631 offences recorded in 2016, 901 more than in 2015 and 846 more than in 2014, demonstrating the force’s commitment to tackling the issue.
“West Yorkshire Police has also invested over £2 million in Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology which allowed us to arrest over 1,000 offenders on the roads in 2016.”
According to data released by policing minister Brandon Lewis in response to a parliamentary question, dedicated roads police units have shrunk in all but seven forces.
The number of specialist roads officers was slashed by almost three-quarters in some parts of England and Wales last year.
The total number of specialist road officers across all 43 forces fell from 5,237 to 4,934.
In South Yorkshire, the number of roads officers fell from 94 to 87 last year, while North Yorkshire saw a fall from 92 to 87 and Humberside Police a drop from 82 to 65.
The Government has announced a number of policies in recent months to crackdown on reckless motorists, such as tougher penalties for killer drivers and those using hand-held mobile phones.
But motoring groups expressed concern that harsher rules will not change driver behaviour unless there is sufficient enforcement.
Steve Gooding, director of research charity the RAC Foundation, told the Press Association: “These figures reveal a concerning, and in some cases extremely alarming, decline in specialist roads policing.
“And this at a time when traffic volumes are growing, the number of annual road deaths is barely falling and more motoring laws are being introduced and need enforcing.
“Next month the penalties for using a handheld mobile at the wheel will double, but stricter laws are of little deterrent if drivers don’t believe they will be caught.”