THOUSANDS of front line officers described as the "backbone of policing in this country" have been lost over the last three years due to cuts.

Figures from the Home Office show that 271 officers have been lost from the force in Merseyside between March 2015 and this year.

Over the same period, the number of violent crimes recorded in Merseyside increased by 88 per cent, and from March 2017 to March 2018, 34,956 violent crimes were recorded across Merseyside.

According to reports, 1,753 officers were in visible front line roles this March, which included 630 neighbourhood officers and 788 incident response officers.

This echoes the findings from across England and Wales, where more than 7,000 visible front line officers have been lost over the last three years - a reduction of 11 per cent.

Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Apter, said: “Since 2010, we have lost more than 21,000 police officers with 80 per cent of those being taken from the front line.

“Neighbourhood officers represent the backbone of policing in this country – local officers who are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the service, providing a reassuring presence on the streets helping to detect and prevent crimes.

"As we lose neighbourhood officers we lose the vital investigative and intelligence-gathering roles they perform in our communities.

“The Government has to acknowledge that as violent crime increases, and with the ever-present threat of terrorism, the cuts to the service are coming home to roost and it is our communities that are suffering as a result."

Deputy Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, Carl Foulkes, added: “Our officers and staff continue to work tirelessly to provide the best possible policing service to protect our communities with the resources available, however, the force is experiencing real pressures with the loss of approximately 1,800 police officers, PCSOs and police staff since 2010.

"In line with the national picture, there have been significant increases in the levels of recorded violent crime, but I would like to reassure our communities that we have looked carefully at this issue and don’t believe our streets are any less safe. Most of this increase can be attributed to the fact that national crime recording standards have changed significantly.

"For example, police forces would not have previously recorded low level violence and harassment in the numbers we now do. Under updated recording guidelines, incidents like this must now be recorded and rightly so, however, this does not mean that we are seeing more violence on the streets of Merseyside, just an increase in recording.

“Compared to the most similar forces, Merseyside has the lowest rate increase for violence with injury. Despite this, we are in no way complacent and continue to work extensively with our partners to prevent crime and serve our communities.”

St Helens North MP Conor McGinn, said: “There are currently just under 3,500 police officers in Merseyside Police, serving and protecting a population of nearly 1.5 million, including communities here in St Helens.

“It’s particularly concerning that crimes involving violence against the person are up 129 per cent and sexual offences have risen by 186 per cent.

“But new figures that I obtained from Ministers in a series of parliamentary questions show staff cuts and the resulting pressure on police officers has also damaged Merseyside Police behind the scenes.

“Police officers in Merseyside are working incredibly hard under difficult circumstances, but all the Government has to offer is cuts and a hollowing out of staff as wastage rates continue to climb.”