THE region’s police force is losing more than 50 officers every year on average, according to recent figures.

With reports of violent crime in the Thames Valley on the increase, some 2,512 officers left the force in less than nine years - and just 2,073 joined.

The revelations have caused Oxford City Council's lead for crime to raise fears about public safety and a local police chief to blame funding cuts for declining officer numbers.

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From 2010 to March 31, 2019, there was a net loss of 439 officers, according to regional statistics released under Freedom of Information laws.

Thames Valley Police’s (TVP) Deputy Chief Constable, Jason Hogg, said: “TVP has had to make savings of more than £100 million during the past 10 years, therefore difficult choices had to be made to ensure that the service is delivering effectively and efficiently.

"Whilst making these savings we do all we can to protect front line and neighbourhood policing.

“We will continue to use our finite resources to deliver the best possible policing to our communities.”

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There were 24,218 violent offences in the Thames Valley in 2010, compared to 37,879 in 2018, according to figures provided by Oxford City Council’s Executive Board member for a Safer and Greener Environment, Tom Hayes - who said the increase of more than 50 per cent saw stalking, harassment and sexual offences rise significantly.

However, other data presents a mixed picture, with more serious violence decreasing ‘significantly’ according to Mr Hogg, who pointed to a 35 per cent drop in grievous bodily harm offences in 2018.

Noting a recent increase in the force’s budget - thanks to a council tax hike - and a reported rise in victim satisfaction with burglary and violent crime handling, he continued: “At the end of 2018, the Thames Valley area saw an increase in violence against the person (excluding domestic offences) of 33 per cent. However, this increase is likely to be linked with campaigns carried out by TVP… to encourage more people to report crimes of this nature.”

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Mr Hogg added that technology was improving the force’s ‘efficiency’, while work was ongoing to ensure TVP officers – who currently number around 4,000 – are equipped with the ‘skills, evidence base, technology, and environment to deliver the highest professional standards’.

However, city councillor Mr Hayes suggested poor staff retention presented a major problem.

He said: "Quite rightly, people will call for more money to bridge the widening gap in policing. With more money, the police could recruit and retain more officers. They could ensure that every officer isn't doing the equivalent of two days of work in one day because they can't share out the workload.

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“With incidents of crime rising, the types of crime being committed becoming more sophisticated, and the ability of the police to respond hacked back, many in our communities will be anxious about their safety.”

Oxford’s ‘Local Policing Area’ has lost 104 staff members and brought in just 18 – an average net loss of around 10 per year between 2010 and April 2019.

Regional data shows that 2,073 officers started working for TVP since 2010 - with 1,700 new student recruits joining, 339 officers transferring in and 34 ‘Police Now Joiners’ arriving since that scheme began in 2016.

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When taken away from the 2,512 officers who left, that makes for an annual net loss of around 53 officers in 8 and a quarter years.

But Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Barber pointed to retirement as the primary cause of officers leaving.

He said: “Officer numbers are currently lower than we would like.

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“(But) significant work is ongoing to recruit additional officers and increase numbers across the force. In 2018/2019, more than 410 new officers were recruited, which is a 58 per cent increase on the previous year.

"The PCC has prioritised increasing the number of police officers and is investing more to recruit and retain the officers our communities need.”

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However, Labour’s Mr Hayes, who also sits on the Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel, accused the Conservative PCC of trying to ‘polish a turd’.

Blaming austerity for declining numbers, he said: “It's not right for the PCC to wave away these new figures. The problem is that people are leaving roles, those that survived the spending cuts, faster than the police can fill them.

“Not only do we have fewer roles but people aren't staying in them because they're unhappy, hamstrung from fighting crime, and put under enormous pressure to do more with less. What the PCC is doing here is trying to polish a turd and that's just not on."