Police budget cuts see force ‘scale back’ searches for ‘low-risk’ missing persons

Avon and Somerset police HQ.

Avon and Somerset police HQ. - Credit: Archant

A police budget ‘breaking point’ caused by ‘dramatic’ Government cuts will see searches for missing people in North Somerset ‘scaled back’.

The families of ‘low-risk’ missing people in the district may no longer receive police assistance, Avon and Somerset Constabulary has just announced.

The change in policy comes after the force reported 30 per cent of its resources are spent searching for missing people rather than solving crimes.

The force estimates it spends about £56,000 per day searching for missing people – an expense it hopes to slash by scaling back searches.

A ‘low risk’ missing person is defined as someone who does not pose a ‘serious risk of harm’ to themselves or others.

This includes a person for whom the risk of harm is assessed as ‘possible but minimal’ – for instance someone who storms out of their home during a family argument.

Children are not included within this definition in Avon and Somerset.

Most Read

The police say scaling back searches will put 300 more officers on the street.

However, charities have slammed the move, saying it will allow low-risk cases to escalate and cause greater ‘emotional strain’ for families.

Claire Smedley, a spokesman for the Missing Persons Trust – a charity which provides investigative services to the families of missing people – says a ‘dramatic loss of police resources’ is responsible for cuts to searches.

She said: “The police do incredible work on a daily basis despite these budget cuts, but these days they need all the support they can get.

“Low-risk cases can escalate quickly and, without appropriate investigation and oversight, this escalation can be missed.

“Scaling back investigations into low risk cases can cause further emotional, social and financial strain on the family and friends of the missing person, as they will still want their loved ones to be found.

“Low risk or not, the absence of a loved one causes distress, anger and confusion among family and friends.”

The change in policy is due to take place in April and will be reviewed by the force.

A police spokesman said: “We work hard to find high-risk missing people and prevent them from coming to harm.”