Sussex has lost more than 100 police officers in the last year according to a government report.
A report into police service strength by the Home Office showed officer levels nationally are at the lowest recorded since 2002.
It said police officer numbers had decreased by 4,001 compared with September 2011. Sussex Police is one of 32 forces in England and Wales which saw a decrease in officers. The report showed the force had lost 126 officers while nearby Surrey saw an increase of 20 officers. Some of the loss is to help the force save £52m by 2015.
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “We know that we will have a smaller workforce in the future and much of the reduction has already taken place. The programme to meet the requirement to make £52 million cuts in 2015 has been very carefully considered and as we adapt and modernise, our key driver is to maintain and even improve on the service we offer to the people of Sussex. We recognise that we cannot continue to work in the same way with fewer people, so in becoming a smaller force, we are changing the way we police to put the public back at the centre of what we do. This includes unburdening our officers and staff from unnecessary paperwork and process, centralising our support functions, restructuring our departments and divisions, exploring savings opportunities by collaborating with other forces and embracing technology solutions so that our people can spend more time in their communities and less time in offices.”
Crawley Labour Group leader Cllr Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate) said: “The office of the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner will cost £1.1m to run this year alone and the elections last November cost the taxpayer £75m. Instead of police officers the Government has decided to prioritise politics, we can only hope that the impact of this decision on law and order won’t be too severe.”
Crawley MP Henry Smith said: “There are two things here. What the home office has done, is reduced the amount of paper work officers have to carry out. A few years ago only 17 per cent of their time was spent on patrol. The second is the new police and crime commissioner, Katy Bourne, has pledged to increase the number of special constables across Sussex, with one in every village and neighbourhood. Although some headlines seem bleak with the high deficit, there are ways for police officers to patrol.”