Number of UK traffic police down a third over the last decade

Freedom of information request reveals major cuts to police traffic officers on UK roads over last five years in particular

Police speed trap

An investigation has revealed that the number of traffic police officers on duty in the UK has fallen by nearly a third over the last decade. 

A freedom of information request sent to the UK’s 45 domestic police forces reveals that cuts to police numbers on our roads have accelerated within the last five years in particular.

Lack of traffic police explains drop in UK motoring offences

30 forces responded to the request with full details of traffic officer numbers over the last ten years. In 2007, the 30 participating forces claimed 3,766 officers. This fell to 3,472 in 2012, while today the figure stands at 2,643. It means that the overall figure is down 30 per cent compared to 2007.

Select forces increased the number of traffic officers on duty between 2007 and 2012, but the overall pattern is of declining numbers, with a sharp reduction in officers between 2012 and 2017 attributed to cuts to policing budgets. 

Some forces felt the pinch more than others – Northamptonshire Police has seen an 83 per cent drop in its traffic officer ranks over the last ten years, with just nine dedicated officers compared to 52 a decade ago. Greater Manchester Police also saw a significant drop, with a 69 per cent reduction in numbers.

A handful of forces have increased numbers though - Hertfordshire (up 44%), Northumbria (up 32%), West Mercia (up 26%), Surrey (up 14%) and Sussex (up 11%).

The AA said the decline could see more drivers getting away with crimes. A spokesman said: “We need more cops in cars, not fewer. The UK has among the safest roads in Europe, although the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads has started to rise after many years of steady decline. Maybe there is a link?” 

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A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “The Government has protected overall police spending in real terms since the Spending Review 2015 and we will always ensure forces have the resources they need to do their vitally important work.

“Effective roads policing is not necessarily dependent on dedicated road traffic officers: the use of technology, other police personnel and local communities also have a role to play.”

Tell us your thoughts on the fall in traffic police in the comments below.

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