In the last ten years, violence in Stoke-on-Trent has got worse and the number of police officers protecting the public against it has been severely diminished.
Officers serving with Staffordshire Police have seen this first hand as they patrol the city’s, and the county’s, streets.
Tonight, hard-hitting BBC Two documentary Cops Like Us gave us a glimpse of some of the issues and challenges police officers in Stoke-on-Trent have to deal with on a daily basis.
For PC Keri Inskip, the situation has meant ‘good old fashioned policing’ has become near on impossible.
Speaking on the show, she said: “Good old fashioned policing was to prevent crime, rather than to react to crime. Diminished numbers makes it near on impossible.
“Sometimes, I’m envious of the naviety of my friends and family that don’t do this job. They live in this nice little world and while they’re aware there’s some pretty crappy things that go on in the world, they don’t see it, they just hear about it.
“Whereas us police officers see it day in day out.
“While violence has always been prevalent in the areas I’ve worked in and I’ve always been in city centre policing where there has been high levels of violence, it’s more dangerous now than I’ve ever known.”
PC Inskip is shown first up attending an incident where a man, bleeding from a head wound, runs into a takeaway after escaping four kidnappers.
He had had his teeth pulled out with pliers, cigarettes put out on his legs and had been beaten with a mallet. The man had jumped out of a window to escape.
It was revealed four offenders were later arrested on suspicion of false imprisonment and inflicting grievous bodily harm.
“We don’t live in the Bronx or in the middle of London, this is Staffordshire”
Inspector Jon Ward, who has served with the police for 22 years, has seen gang issues appear across the county, along with the weapons and violence associated with them.
He said: “Bad times at the moment within Stoke-on-Trent, all very dark stuff really. But there’s a resilience here – I’ve seen the local area hit by numerous challenges in the past and the people always come together and always move forward.
“I think that’s a big plus. So I’ve seen the very, very best of people in Stoke-on-Trent and I’ve seen the very, very worst of people in Stoke-on-Trent.
“We don’t live in the Bronx or in the middle of London, this is Staffordshire and it’s a nice county but we are starting see gang issues creeping in and along with gang culture comes weapons, comes knives, comes stabbings.”
Responding to a stabbing in Norton, Inspector Ward revealed that one incident could occupy up to ten officers as they look to protect the integrity of the crime scene.
“As an inspector, I’m there as top cover,” he added. “If I think there are any incidents where officers may struggle or officers may not want to make key decisions, then I will do that.
“We’ve then got to look at managing that community back to a level of normality. It’s not just about the stabbing, it’s about the community effect.
“A community like Norton, which is working class, which is a community with values, when all of a sudden you’ve got this level of violence, that does really rock a community’s level of security and how they feel.”
“There’s not enough of us to cope with the demand. There’s never been a better time to be a criminal”
Inspector Ward now works with about half of the officers he did just two years ago, but has seen the demands made of the police increase massively.
He added: “Two years ago, I paraded seven sergeants and 48 PCs. The other day I paraded two sergeants and 23 PCs, so 50 per cent has just gone.
“But as long as I can go home with a clear mind knowing we’ve done as much as we can on that day and I have implicit trust in my officers on my team and I know they will do the best job they can.
“The biggest change I’ve seen: we’re becoming less of an enforcement agency, arresting people and putting them before the courts and we’re now becoming more of a supportive function.
“As of level of resource has declined, our partners, the health service, those have been suffering as well. And 15, 20 years ago we would say ‘it’s nothing to do with us, we’re the police, that’s not for us to deal with’.
“These days, we’re the only organisation that can’t say no, we’re having to take on a lot of other organisations’ work. I hope the pendulum will swing back.”
The challenges faced by the force are keenly felt by Chief Constable Gareth Morgan, who has 32 years of service with the police.
He said: “There’s not enough of us and I’m never, ever, going to shy away from saying it.
“The uplift announced by the government, the 20,000 which is talked about, that’s very welcome but let’s be absolutely clear though, those increases don’t come anywhere near the reductions.
“It’ll take us a long time to get back to where we were. Choices have been made, we have closed down a number of police stations across Staffordshire and the reality is, not only have we had the issue of austerity, but the challenges of policing have also changed.
“Heightened issues in relation to threats around counter-terrorism, the growth of serious and organised crime, the explosion of crime online – all of this has happened at the same time as the impact of reduced funding and resources.
“We’ve had difficult choices to make, where you prioritise the limited resource that you’ve got. My job is to try and balance those competing needs.
“With what I’ve got, where can I get the best return to keep the public as safe as I can. And that is a continual challenge and I feel that very powerfully with the staff I work alongside. It is hard when you’re trying to get that balance right.
“It does weigh heavily on you.”
Cops Like Us aired at 9pm on BBC Two and is available on BBC iPlayer.