Summarising the effects of rapid recruitment and low police visibility, as well as an increase in criminal charges and a shift in type of crime, on police services.

Key figures

  • 0.9% – the real-terms increase in police spending in England and Wales in 2022/23.
  • 8,655,504 – the number of victim-based crimes reported in 2022/23, a 15.2% decline on 2019/20.
  • 8.9% – the minimum increase in the number of charges/summonses in 2022/23, corresponding to a charge rate of 5.7%.
  • 20,947 – the increase in police officer headcount between October 2019 and March 2023.
  • 51% – the proportion of people who feel that their local police are doing a good or excellent job. That equates to a 5-percentage-point decline on 2019/20 and the lowest proportion since at least 2009/10.

Police recruitment and cost

The police service faces an array of challenges. After a number of high-profile criminal scandals involving police officers, public trust is at historically low levels. Rapid recruitment has swelled the police ranks to the highest level since 2002/03, but this has failed to translate into perceptions of greater police visibility, which are also at an all-time low. The number of charges has risen for the first time since 2013/14. Levels of crime have declined over the last decade and are now at the lowest ever recorded.

After a real terms decline in spending of 16.2% between 2009/10 and 2016/17, police expenditure has significantly increased to £17.24bn in 2022/23. This is still below 2009/10 levels, however. The biggest driver of spending increases has been the Police Uplift Programme, which has successfully recruited an additional 20,947 officers. It is expected to cost £3.6bn.

Increase in charges

The impact of these new police numbers has already led to an 8.9% increase in charges, the first since 2013/14. This comes after a 43.6% decline between 2009/10 and 2021/22. The increase is partially accounted for by a 23.9% rise in charges for sexual offences, the largest year-on-year increase since 2006/07. The number of charges per officer also marginally increased, from 2.6 in 2021/22 to 2.7 this year with an extra 2,376 officers working in investigations compared to 2018/19. The strategic deployment of these new officers will have a significant impact on whether charges continue to increase in the future.

Levels of crime have declined over the last decade and are now at the lowest ever recorded. A 46.8% decline in theft and a 45.7% drop in violent offences since 2009/10 are the key contributors to this trend. Fraud and computer misuse now account for half of all victim-reported crime. But police forces are struggling to respond to this shift with a 39% decline in fraud charges since 2016/17, and in 2022/23 only 0.35% of all reported fraud resulted in a charge or summons.

The effect of the recruitment drive

Following the police recruitment drive, the service now has the highest number of officers since 2002/03. However, the size of the recruitment drive placed vetting units under considerable pressure and the Chief Inspector of Police has already concluded that hundreds of people are likely to have joined the police who shouldn’t have.