Leicestershire Police take to bikes and buses in face of budget cuts
Residents welcome move as force reduces size of car fleet
Leicestershire Constabulary is telling its officers to get on their bikes or take the bus after slashing the number of cars it operates due to cuts in its £180 million annual budget.
According to the Leicester Mercury, the force is looking make total cuts of £15 million, and reducing the number of cars in its fleet from 483 to 443 is expected to contribute £175,000.
Senior officers insist that the cuts will not affect the force’s capacity to respond to emergencies and point out that the police stations affected are the ones that currently operate the largest number of cars.
Police Constable Emma Jayne, a beat officer in the Clarendon Park area of the city, told the newspaper that she now patrols her territory by bicycle.
"Cars are a bit of a barrier – even if you're driving slowly through the neighbourhood, people are not going to flag you down,” she explained.
"I've been cycling for ages. You can speak to more people,” she added. "I say 'hello, how are you?' to everyone and we can get into a conversation."
Local residents’ groups have welcomed the initiative. Ken Brewis, chairman of the Eyres Monsell Tenants' Association, stated: "We see the officers up here three or four times a day, often more.”
He added: "Some of them will come up here on the bikes, while the ones who are in cars park up and spend their time walking the beat.”
Mr Brewis concluded: "This is just what people want to see. They don't want their police officers going past in cars at 30mph."
Inspector Richard Toone, commander at Welford Road police station in Leicester, explained that its location on a busy bus route into the city centre allowed officers to use that option. "The buses pick up or drop off just outside the station. The drivers and passengers seem to like seeing us,” he said.
"I need to go to a lot of meetings in the city centre and I'm finding it's very convenient to get there and back by bus.”
He added: "The neighbourhood teams are increasingly using bikes to get around their beats and some will travel there by bus and spend their time patrolling on foot."
Superintendent Chris Haward, a senior officer helping to co-ordinate the force’s budget cuts programme, said: "Leicestershire Constabulary is facing a period of extreme financial pressure, unprecedented in recent times.
"It is therefore vital that the force considers every opportunity to make cost-effective use of its resources and continues to deliver an effective service."