Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa has told the Government "enough is enough" as the county's diminishing police resources are pushed to the limit and beyond.
In a no-holds-barred interview with the Burton Mail, Mr Dhindsa says the police force has already borne the brunt of public service cuts - and cannot face further cutbacks.
And he warns that the changing face of criminal activity - with cybercrime now responsible for 50 per cent of crime - is piling the pressures on police.
In the first of three Police and Crime Commissioner interviews, the Mail sat down with Derbyshire's representative Mr Dhindsa at force HQ in Ripley.
He has been in office since May 2016, representing 450,000 households, following a three-year stint as deputy to then incumbent Alan Charles.
Prior to running for the Police and Crime Commissioner position, Mr Dhindsa worked as a probation officer for 30 years. He has held a seat on Derby City Council since 1993, representing Labour in the Normanton ward.
He said the rising demand on police officers and staff was pushing resources beyond the limit.
With forced savings of £37 million in the last seven or eight years, Derbyshire must cut a further £5 million from its budget in the next two years – despite the county being already highly ranked for its efficiencies.
"We now have 76 less PCSOs and our officer numbers have fallen from 2,100 to around 1,700, along with hundreds less staff.
"I’m not one to complain for the sake of complaining, but Derbyshire was rated well for how efficient it was and there isn’t anything further we can cut, our funds and resources are being cut to the bud.
"I think it’s time we say enough is enough to the Government. I hope they will listen.
"The police forces across England and Wales combined need another £800 million and out of that Derbyshire needs around £15/20 million a year – and that’s just to stand still and continue our current services.
"Crime is not reducing and it is changing, and when funding is reduced for all public services the police service takes the brunt of it – that is because in times of crisis people contact the police first.
"In the past two years we have seen a 20 per cent rise in the number of calls we receive and 80 per cent of those are related to welfare.
"And we can't solve all our problems by keeping bobbies on the beat, which I know is what the public like.
"That doesn't help us solve online crimes, or cyber-related crime – which is now almost 50 per cent of crime, crimes such as online fraud, phishing and hacking.
"We have spoken to the 11 MPs who represent Derbyshire and are asking them to stand up for the county.
"But having a 1.3 per cent reduction in funding each year for the next two to three years has had a big impact on our response and our services.
"And there are now new demands on police, as we saw with the terror attacks in Manchester, and raising the threat levels.
"Under counter-terrorism targets it is expected that police have a response time from pressing the button to being on the scene in eight minutes, and that's all well and good in large metropolitan areas like Manchester, but for much of Derbyshire that isn't possible.
"And we cannot maintain all the extra demands of a higher threat level for more than a few days.
"Underlying all this is the importance of our neighbourhood policing teams, who provide important intelligence.
"We can’t just push resources from one area to another."
Mr Dhindsa, who moved to Derby from Punjab in India in 1967, says that at the core of everything he aims to achieve is cross-agency cooperation, which includes town, borough, city and county councils, along with supportive organisations and other services.
As part of this, he says that cross-border co-operation is key, liaising with the PCCs of the surrounding counties, particularly in areas such as Swadlincote, Glossop and New Mills which are very close to county borders.
He says the police’s safer neighbourhood teams are working very closely with the fire and rescue service.
This has been sealed in Ashbourne with the neighbourhood team moving into the fire station, a scheme which Mr Dhindsa aims to roll out across the rest of Derbyshire.
When asked about localised issues within his remit, Mr Dhindsa said anti-social behaviour (ASB) had been a core problem in Swadlincote.
He says that officers had been praised for their efforts in tackling the problem, demonstrating how hard neighbourhood teams work.
In the villages and towns around the county, such as in Coton in the Elms, Mr Dhindsa says residents often raised problems over speeding as well as heavier vehicles following satnavs and heading down unsuitable routes.
In Chesterfield and Derby the issue of begging and anti-social behaviour had been rife.
He had held a city centre summit with business leaders, local authorities, support services and church groups to tackle the issue in Derby.
"Where people can work together we can really make a lasting difference," said Mr Dhindsa
"The key is finding out what services people can be working, and why the most vulnerable do not have access to these or choose not to use these.
"We held a similar summit in Chesterfield three to four months ago and it has already had a big impact."
Mr Dhindsa claims the reason some members of the public did not understand the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner was due to different rules at election time.
Candidates are wholly responsible for distributing their manifestos and leaflets, as opposed to Parliamentary campaigns in which each candidate has a brief manifesto distributed for them.
He feels the public are gradually becoming more aware, with a 15-16 per cent turnout at the 2012 PCC elections, compared to around 20 per cent in 2016.
When asked whether the PCC role had politicised policing, Mr Dhindsa said: "I don’t think that is true.
"PCCs are elected but once in office - it is our role to represent the community, to provide the best service for everyone in Derbyshire, politics is just not part of it.
"I work with all the political groups, and work well with them all."
Mr Dhindsa says that if he were to select three key aims from his police and crime plan, he would choose mental health, vulnerability and victim support, and alcohol and drugs.
He said one out of six crimes was alcohol or drugs-related.
Mr Dhindsa said of the war on drugs: "We can’t arrest our way out of this issue, we need to reduce the demand."
This, he says, is because as soon as offenders in the drug trade are arrested, more seem to take their place.
Regarding mental health, Mr Dhindsa said the key was to make sure people received the appropriate treatment and, as an example, would not be kept in police cells overnight.
To help further this cause, he is keen to give mental health support advice to control room staff, ambulance personnel and NHS professionals.
He said that due to the nature of the county he oversees, with wide expanses of countryside, rural crime was a major aspect of his work.
He aimed to bridge the three different communities of urban, rural and suburban.
A common qualm he says is that people in rural communities feel that they are being unfairly given the same council tax precept when the focus of crime is often in the cities, with residents feeling that their tax is not being spent in their neighbourhoods.
"There are 383 towns and villages in Derbyshire, and I made a pledge to visit all of them during my time in office," says Mr Dhindsa, sitting in front of a map of the county, marked with red stickers for places he had visited.
"One of the aims which I have brought in, which has been influenced by my time as a probation officer, is the need for appropriate and timely support for the most vulnerable in our society affected by crime.
"That's why I have spent £1.2 million on a customised service for victim support, which will provide specialist support for victims who have suffered sexual abuse, hate crime and many other things.
"I am one of few PCCs who is looking into support for young people in this area; that is because they are the least likely to use the support services available to them."
Next up to talk to the Mail is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire, Labour’s Lord Willy Bach, followed by Staffordshire’s PCC, Conservative Matthew Ellis.