THE Police and Crime Commissioner has refuted an assertion that police officer numbers in Carmarthenshire have dropped by 41% since 2010 – but a councillor who made it said the figures came from the force itself.
Dafydd Llywelyn, who was elected commissioner in 2016, told a meeting of the full council that Dyfed-Powys Police currently had 1,135 frontline officers in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys, and that the average figure since 2010 was 1,145.
He was responding to Cllr Rob James’ statement that there were 355 officers in Carmarthenshire in 2010 compared to 208 in 2018.
Plaid Cymru commissioner Mr Llywelyn didn’t give a county-by-county breakdown of officer numbers but described the 41% reduction as “inaccurate”, adding that more populated areas – like Llanelli – had a higher officer resource.
While police numbers have dropped across Wales and England since 2010 as a result of funding cuts, the commissioner said: “Dyfed-Powys Police has fared well in not haemorrhaging police officer numbers in recent years.”
He said he would like to see the figures given by Cllr James, who said he was quoting from a Freedom of Information response by the force.
Cllr James, Labour opposition leader in Carmarthenshire, also cited a recent inspection report which downgraded Dyfed-Powys Police from “good” to “requiring improvement” in one of three criteria – legitimacy – with the other two remaining “good”.
He suggested to the commissioner that the force was “not just coasting but going backwards under your leadership”.
Mr Llywelyn hit back, saying he had overseen several improvements in his tenure but that he was “as disappointed as anybody” to see the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. He added that its findings had been addressed.
The commissioner reeled off a series of positive outcomes since taking over from his predecessor, Christopher Salmon, including the hiring of more staff to deal with things like cyber-crime, the rollout of CCTV cameras in towns, including Llanelli, the setting up of a dedicated rural crime unit, and funding for youth intervention projects.
Mr Llywelyn also said Dyfed-Powys Police was improving its recording of crime, and that targeted action to disrupt cross-border drug trafficking – known as county lines – had resulted in 300 arrests in 2017-18 compared to 200 a couple of years previously.
But he told councillors not to be “too alarmist” over county lines, because the activity remained lower than in other force areas.
A number of councillors praised Mr Llywelyn for his work – particular the CCTV rollout and youth intervention focus – but were keen to find out more about neighbourhood policing.
The commissioner said a review was due to be published shortly on a planned restructure of neighbourhood policing, which he likened to a “patchwork quilt” service at present, but that there were no plans to cut police community support officer numbers.
Council tax payers in the Dyfed-Powys area faced a 10.7% rise in their police precept this financial year, but it still remained the lowest of Wales’ four force areas.
Mr Llywelyn said the financial situation “has been very challenging”.
He added: “We still get insufficient funding levels that come through the Treasury.”
Thanking the commissioner for his work, Plaid Cymru council leader Emlyn Dole said: “He came to his post as a breath of fresh air following his predecessor, who did leave the budget in a terrible state, and other things as well. He has been brave. He has a vision.”