Plymouth's Charles Cross police station is one of UK's busiest – MP
DRUG and alcohol abuse has been blamed by a city MP for making Plymouth's city centre police station one of the busiest in the country.
The scale of the problem and the work it generated for Charles Cross has been highlighted in the House of Commons.
A Westminster debate also heard warnings of a policing "double whammy" in Plymouth with cutbacks to the Ministry of Defence police coming at the same time as those in the civilian force.
Devon and Cornwall is losing a fifth of its officers – 700 – as a result of cutbacks totalling almost £50million by 2015. But Policing Minister Nick Herbert has rejected any link between a recent hike in crime and staff reductions. Other forces had lost personnel but continued to bring down the number of offences he argued.
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Latest figures revealed Devon and Cornwall was among only a handful of forces nationally to see crime rates rise.
In the 12 months to December, the overall number of crimes in the two counties rose by three per cent to 89,613 – an increase only outstripped in Warwickshire. It also revealed worrying increases in robbery, which rose 12 per cent to 486 offences, and domestic burglary, which was up 16 per cent – the fourth biggest increase nationally – to 4,134.
This has been seized on by critics of the cuts.
There have also been calls for changes to the way government cash is shared out among forces, which sees Devon and Cornwall miss out on nearly £5 million – the equivalent of 100 officers.
The debate on policing in Devon and Cornwall was secured by Lib Dem MP for North Cornwall Dan Rogerson. During an intervention, Tory MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Oliver Colvile said: "Does he recognise that Charles Cross police station in my constituency is one of the busiest police stations, if not the busiest, in the whole of England, principally because of drug and alcohol abuse?"
Mr Colvile had no figures to back up his claims.
Mr Rogerson said: "He makes a good point on one of the pressures on the police. That problem requires close cross-agency working, including health and social services, and local housing officers."
Alongside cuts to civilian officers, the Ministry of Defence is shedding 1,800 police and guard jobs nationally. This has raised concerns over security at military bases such as Devonport. This was highlighted by Lib Dem MP Adrian Sanders who said: "An unintended consequence that could have severe implications in Devon and Cornwall is the simultaneous cutbacks in the Ministry of Defence police force, which will put pressure on the civilian police force to move into areas that, in the past, they relied on the MoD force to police. Dartmouth is an example, and so too is Plymouth. I am extremely worried that there might be a double-whammy effect from the necessary austerity measures."
Responding to the debate, the Minister pointed to the increase in crime in the force area.
Mr Herbert said: "That is in contrast to the majority of forces in England and Wales, so it is not possible to link that increase with the reduction in force numbers and police numbers, because that has happened to other forces as well, yet they have continued to reduce crime."