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Vacancy rates are a 'gaping hole' at the heart of policing in Croydon claims Labour's Sarah Jones


HIGH vacancy rates have created a "gaping hole" at the heart of policing in Croydon, a politician has claimed.

Statistics show that, in May, Croydon Police were the equivalent of 59 officers below strength.

Sarah Jones, Labour's prospective candidate for Croydon Central at next year's general election, accused Mayor of London Boris Johnson of reneging on a promise to give the borough extra resources.

The Met said the figures were only a "snapshot" of staff strength and that "much has changed" since May. The Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) said the number of officers in Croydon's neighbourhood teams will have more than doubled between 2011 and 2015.

The Mayor promised front counters would be replaced with more officers on the streets when all but one of the borough's police stations closed or had opening hours slashed in the face of £500m budget cuts last year.

MOPAC said Croydon would get 117 extra officers by 2015, the second highest increase in London.

New figures appear to show MOPAC has quite some way to go before it fulfills that promise.

The 'target strength' for Croydon in May was 764 full time equivalents, but the actual number stationed in the borough was 705, a vacancy rate of eight per cent.

In July, the latest available statistics, officer strength increased to 711, just 12 higher than last September, when five stations closed or had opening hours cut.

Information about vacancy rates was supplied in response to a question asked of the Mayor by Joanne McCartney, London Assembly member for Enfield and Haringey.

It revealed there were 1,209 vacancies for police sergeants and constables across the capital in May.

Mrs Jones accused Mr Johnson and the government of "running down police numbers despite clear manifesto pledges to do the exact opposite".

"It is no wonder that residents complain about the lack of police out on the beat if the force is so under strength," she said.

"The government talks tough on crime but the evidence suggests police numbers are down, and people are suffering as a result."

The Labour politician called on Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell to "unequivocally condemn these reckless cuts".

Mr Barwell declined to comment when contacted by the Advertiser.

The Met said the situation had improved since the figures in question and that it plans to increase officer strength from 31,200 in August to 32,000 by 2015/16.

"This is despite a significant reduction in the overall budget and is only possible due to the ambitious change programmes which are currently being implemented across the Met, driving efficiency and cost reductions in non-front line roles."

An average of 250 new recruits will start training each month over the rest of the financial year, a spokesman added.

MOPAC said the number of police officer's in Croydon's safer neighbourhood teams will reach 183 by 2015, compared to 73 in 2011.

A spokeswoman added: "This is one of the highest increases in London and means there are far more opportunities for these officers to engage with the local community and fight crime."

Amid debate about officer numbers, overall crime in Croydon fell 9.5 per cent last year, though domestic violence and rape increased sharply.

Vacancy rates are a 'gaping hole'  at the heart of policing in Croydon claims Labour's Sarah Jones

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