Police cuts 'encourage drink drivers' warning after fall in summertime breath-tests

Reporter:

Suzanne Kendrick

“DEEP cuts” to police officer numbers are being blamed for a fall in motorists being stopped for drink-driving.

And a leading police staff representative has warned: “There is a fear if people know there is not going to be the same amount of police officers doing these road checks, then sadly people will take risks.”

North Wales Police conducted 1,772 breath tests in June this year – a huge fall on the previous June, which had seen 3,958 tests conducted. 73 were either positive, refused or failed to prove (4.3 per cent). During same period 61 were arrested for drug driving.

Mark Jones, who works as a safer neighbourhood team sergeant in Prestatyn and Rhuddlan and is a North Wales Police Federation representative, says police officer numbers – across England and Wales – have fallen to their lowest since 1985. He says there are a lot of pressures on officers, who are tired, overworked and have an increased workload and the resources to carry out the number of breath-tests the force would like to conduct, simply aren’t there.

Speaking in his Police Federation role, Mr Jones said: “Police numbers have been cut to the bone and we use that line that cuts have consequences.

“Every police officer is out to catch a drink-driver. We all want the road to be safer.

“The cuts – in police officers and traffic officers - has had an effect on the number of breath-tests being carried out in North Wales.

“Usually, when there is a drop like this – in the amount of breath-tests conducted – more resources will be put into it, but we haven’t got those resources so yes, that figure could drop again in the future.”

The summer drink and drug driving campaign – during the month of June – conducted annually by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) across Wales and England, saw only 38,636 vehicles being stopped in 2017, compared with almost 50,000 in 2016. This represents a dramatic fall of 21 per cent.

South Wales Police carried out 1,629 breath tests this June, compared to 1,819 last June.

”I can’t really speak on South Wales, but you’ve got to think – if they are putting a lot on resources on that issue, then what impact is it having elsewhere?” Mr Jones added.

“The style of police operation has changed – with public sector demands and other pressures. Something has to give.

“We have new powers, new equipment, we are making arrests and all forces have seen a rise in drug drive offences.

“Local police officers do not have the time to be as committed and sometimes, have to deal with matters they shouldn’t be concerned with.

“Mental health, for example, is a huge issue but it is not, typically, a police matter. It snowballs – it is the start of more and more pressures to come.”

Jayne Willetts, lead on roads policing for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “These figures are worrying.

“It not only shows that the number of drivers being stopped has fallen but positive drug screening tests has increased at an alarming rate.

“To keep members of the public safe we need to have roads policing officers targeting the ‘fatal four’ which includes drink and drug driving.

”However, numbers of dedicated roads policing officers has almost halved since 2000, with just under 4,000 now working across England and Wales.”

 

Email:

suzanne.kendrick@nwn.co.uk

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