20% Decline in Traffic Police in a Decade

We need more cops in cars to target crooks in cars

A Gatso speed camera

There has been an almost 20% decline in the number of traffic police in England and Wales over the last decade according to new government figures analysed by the AA.

The AA is alarmed that there are now 1,507 fewer police officers engaged in patrolling the roads than there were ten years ago. The figures came out in a written Commons answer to a question posed by opposition Transport Secretary, Teresa Villiers MP.

While the debate rages over the scrapping of speed cameras in Swindon the AA believes that the decline in traffic police is a more serious concern.

Police more effective than cameras

Edmund King, AA president said: "I have been saying for some time that we need more cops in cars to target crooks in cars. If the police target disqualified drivers and the motoring underclass they will be more effective in reducing general crime.

"A speed camera does not pick up the illegal foreign truck driver or boy racer with stolen plates but a traffic cop can. We need to reverse this trend and increase the number of traffic cops not only to make our roads safer but to make society safer. We should never forget that it was a police officer on traffic duty who caught the Yorkshire Ripper."

Links between motoring offences and general crimes

Previous research suggests that there is a strong link between those committing motoring offences and other general crimes. The AA has expressed concern that some serious criminals are slipping through the net undetected due to this massive decrease in traffic police.

The research from TRL1 examines the link between traffic offences and criminal offences in Great Britain statistically by linking offence data from DVLA and the Home Office. A sample of over 52,000 drivers was selected from DVLA records and matched with the Home Office Offenders Index.

The numbers of motoring and non-motoring offences committed by these drivers between 1999 and 2003 were compared and show a strong correlation. Men who committed between 4 and 8 non-motoring offences committed on average 21 times as many serious motoring offences as men who committed no non-motoring offences.

The research also found that those who commit general crimes are much more likely to be disqualified drivers.

However, the number of speeding offences was found to decrease with the number of non-motoring offences committed. This is probably due to the fact that more people in the general population have speeding convictions.

Previous research for the Home Office on "The criminal histories of serious traffic offenders" also backs up these findings.


See the table showing numbers of traffic police by police force over the past ten years on the Parliament website in a written Commons answer to a question posed by opposition Transport Secretary, Teresa Villiers MP

AA/Populus panel survey results Speed cameras, traffic police and other measures to make roads safer

1The correlation between motoring and other types of offence, Broughton, J, TRL, UK

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23 October 2008