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Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 14:52 GMT
Public losing confidence in police
Police officers
People want more police on the streets
Public confidence in the police is continuing to fall as more and more officers leave the force, an official study reveals.

A report by the Audit Commission has found the vast majority of people are unhappy with the number of officers and level of policing on the streets.

The visible presence of police officers makes a great contribution in reassuring the public

Home Office spokesman
It also shows that while police numbers are continuing to fall, individual officers are solving more crimes.

The report comes just days after Home Secretary Jack Straw and Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to boost police numbers to record numbers by 2004.

The Audit Commission reports that just one in five people are happy with the number of police on the streets.

Less than half are happy with the level of foot patrols by officers.

According to the report, the number of officers available for work in England and Wales has fallen from 2.14 per 1,000 people two years ago to 2.11.

The commission's Performance Indicator report also shows the number of crimes being solved by officers is increasing - up from 12% to 12.2% per officer.

They are also spending more time out on the streets - up 1% to 53%.

Police recruitment

The Home Office said efforts were being made to recruit more officers and ensure the police spent more time on the streets.

A spokesman said: "The visible presence of police officers makes a great contribution in reassuring the public.

"This is why we introduced the Crime Fighting Fund to recruit an extra 9,000 police officers above forces existing plans."

The commission's report, which looked at a number of public services, also found there are still huge variations in the level of services provided by local authorities.

It said councils falling a long way behind other authorities in some services faced a "considerable challenge" in trying to improve.

Under the best value scheme, contained in the Local Government Act 1999 which came into force in April, all councils are expected to reach the standards of the top performers within the next four years.

Andrew Foster, controller of the Audit Commission, said: "Over the last few years many councils have improved the quality of their local services, and their efforts should be congratulated.

"But the standard of service received by the public still varies according to where people live, and some councils have to make significant improvements if they are to meet the standards of the best."

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