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Just one in five say officers are 'highly visible' in their communities

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Labour says visibility has rarely been lower and 'blame lies squarely at the government's door'.

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The number of people who believe police are "highly visible" in their community has fallen by almost half, statistics show.

Just one in five (22 per cent) people said they feel officers are highly visible, according to the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales, which looks at the period from April last year to March this year.

This compared with 39 per cent in April 2010 to March 2011, while the percentage of the public who said they "never" see police foot patrols has risen by more than half, from 25 per cent to 39 per cent.

It follows a survey last year, which found that one in three people in England and Wales has not seen a bobby on the beat in their local area in the past year.

The poll carried out for HMIC found 36 per cent of people had not seen a police officer or PCSO on foot in their areas in the past year - while just under a quarter (23 per cent) had seen uniformed personnel "once or twice".

The watchdog warned of the "erosion" of neighbourhood policing as forces are forced to make further financial cuts.

Labour's Shadow Policing Minister Louise Haigh said: "Bobbies on the beat don't just reassure the public they collect vital community intelligence and help to keep us safe. Savage cuts mean this tried and tested bedrock of British policing is being chipped away as police withdraw from neighbourhood policing altogether.

"Police visibility has rarely been lower and the blame lies squarely at the Government's door.

"The Tories shamefully accused the police of crying wolf over police cuts, but now the public are seeing the brutal reality; crime rising and fewer officers on hand to keep them safe."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Effective policing is not just about the number of officers on the street but about accessibility - having a presence where people now live their lives and are at risk, for example online.

"The latest data from the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales shows that nearly two-thirds of the public believe that the police are doing a good or excellent job, and we encourage forces to be innovative, including making best use of technology in the way in which they engage so they meet the needs of all sectors of the community."

Last month a number of anonymous former senior Met officers stressed the importance of Safer Neighbourhood Teams, the force’s “eyes and ears” on the ground.

The officers claim the teams have been key to detecting signs of radicalisation and gang-related activity in the past.

They explained that in 2007 every ward in every London borough boasted a team made up of a sergeant, two police constables and three community support officers.

Now there are just three officers in each team, with each unit covering three or four wards.

View on Police Oracle

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