Police forces, like many other organisations and agencies, are experiencing cuts to their budget. Alongside this are changes to the way in which policing priorities and direction will be set with responsibility passing to the proposed elected Police and Crime Commissioners. To identify different perspectives on what change is occurring at local level and the impact this may have on drug-related policing activities, the UK Drug Policy Commission distributed a questionnaire to all English forces and Basic Command Units (BCUs). In all, 74% of forces, 25% of BCUs and 9 other units responded. The key findings were:

  1. Drug-related policing expenditure and activity is expected to decrease and there is a perception that it is faring worse than other police activities.
  2. Proactive work related to the detection of drug supply is expected to decrease. Activities such as covert surveillance, test purchasing and other intelligence gathering work were most often mentioned as likely to decrease. This may have an impact on the police’sability to monitor the drug problem in their area and to contribute to broader initiatives such as Street Level Up.
  3. Those drug-related activities that appear likely to increase are ones, such as asset forfeiture, that could contribute to income.
  4. Uncertainty about partner agencies is high and less partnership working and work with community groups is expected. This is of concern given the evidence of the importance of partnership working and community engagement for effective drug-related policing.

The findings of this survey suggest that the continuing pressures to save money and identify efficiencies may be leading to a greater focus on policing the most visible and pressing issues in the short term. If this is at the expense of activities of long term and ‘deeper’ benefit, it might have a negative impact on other key policy initiatives.

Source: UK Drug Policy Commission

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