NEW FOREST traders complaining that police funding cuts are weakening officers’ response to crime have been backed by the Federation of Small Businesses.
Hampshire Constabulary has been regularly criticised by people suffering theft and vandalism, with stores in Lymington high street recently falling victim to an “epidemic” of smash-and-grab raids, as reported in the A&T.
Victims have also blamed the government for police funding policy which between 2010 and 2019 has led to uniform officer numbers falling by nearly a third (28%) from 3,748 to 2,697.
Nick Rees, who last month lost £10,000 of tools in a raid at Sopley, near Christchurch, said: “Until the police and the government realise hard-working people are being targeted and people are getting away with it, nothing is going to change.”
His perspective has been backed by regional research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) which prompted it to call on the government to boost police spending.
It found a third of small firms in the south-east have suffered theft, criminal damage and assault.
Just over a fifth (22%) have been victims of cybercrime including phishing, malware and data theft. It estimated £17bn nationally is now lost annually to the economy from crime.
The FSB’s development manager for Hampshire, Nicola Bailey, said: “These figures show the immense pressure that small firms are under on a day to day basis and the hugely damaging effect of business crime on UK productivity.
“These are uncertain times for all firms and with ever-increasing costs, business crime is a problem that is devastating firms across the country.”
She added: “Small firms are crying out for help from the government and from the police. Of those smaller businesses that experience at least one business crime just over one fifth did not report an impactful crime to any authorities.
“The most common reason given for this was a lack of confidence in the police, so it’s time that the new administration increases the capacity and capability of police forces in England and Wales”
She welcomed the government’s announcement that 20,000 extra police would be recruited – including 156 in Hampshire and 50 in Dorset – but said that “more needs to be done”.
Hampshire has the lowest ratio of officers to residents in England and Wales, with between 136-159 officers per 100,000 head of population, according to Home Office figures. In London that number is 239-350.