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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
spent a Friday night with the police in Bognor Regis, Sussex
 real 56k

Monday, 14 May, 2001, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Police 'powerless to fight crime'
police on the beat
The federation wants police numbers to rise to 140,000
The head of the Police Federation is due to renew his call for a boost in officer numbers, saying current targets are insufficient to fight crime effectively.

The organisation's chairman, Fred Broughton, is expected to criticise Home Secretary Jack Straw for leaving the service "powerless to prevent crime".

Thousands of police men and women are arriving in Blackpool, Lancashire, for the annual conference of the federation - the body representing rank and file officers in England and Wales - which starts on Tuesday.

The federation wants a 10% increase in numbers and believes the government's target of 128,000 officers by 2002 will not deliver the type of policing and results to which the public is entitled.

It has produced research to back up its case which compares crime figures in New York and London during a change in the number of uniformed officers.

Low morale

Mr Straw and shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe are due to speak at the federation's conference.

Citizens per police officer
Berlin: 124
New York: 161
London: 290
Manchester: 376
Sheffield: 545
Problems with police recruitment and low morale among officers will be key subjects of debate.

Over the weekend the home secretary conceded that the Police Federation target of a 10% increase would not be reached.

But he insisted that a re-elected Labour government would boost numbers to 130,000 by 2003.

"There will be record police numbers, 3,000 more than they are now," he told a live debate on BBC One's On The Record programme.

"Under the Conservatives, there will literally be fewer."

But he acknowledged that better use could be made of officers' time, saying: "We ought to be doing a lot more to make the police more efficient."

Effective deployment

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe pledged the Tories would increase police numbers to at least 127,000, but added: "It isn't only police numbers, it is what they do with their time.

"You can actually get more police hours if, on top of the rises in raw numbers, they deploy their time in a way that they are actually out fighting crime."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said: "There is not nearly enough support or money for the police."

The Police Federation's research found while London has 25,121 officers, one for every 290 citizens, New York has 45,535 - one for every 161 citizens.

Berlin has 27,298 police officers - one for every 124 of the city's population.

Sheffield, with a population of more than 500,000, has 972 officers, one per 545 citizens.

In Greater Manchester there are 6,851 officers, one for every 376 citizens.

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