Police forces are facing a £350m shortfall in budgets as chief police officers are struggling to juggle funds because of new responsibilities, such as fighting cybercrime.
In its National Strategic Assessment , the Association of Chief Police Officers said that new responsibilities, such as high-tech crime, required a budget increase of 5.7 percent to keep the same number of officers in front-line policing. At present, the report estimated the police would only receive a 3 percent rise in funding.
The report said: "The police are facing the very real prospect of a funding shortfall next year. We will have to find extra money to: meet new statutory and policy responsibilities… forensic, IT and technological developments; and to fund a 12 percent rise in the cost of pensions as a result of mass officer recruitment in the 1970s. A cap on council tax rises to low single figures would leave a shortfall in police budgets of £350m. The police service wants to avoid any reduction in front-line policing, but this is a real possibility."
ACPO added that part of the funding was necessary to retain police officers, as many, such as forensic and IT specialists, could earn more money in the private sector.
The report also said that high-tech crime was set to rise as advances in technology and the problem of international legal boundaries were making it hard to police the Internet.
Police said the Internet could be used as a tool to dispose of stolen goods, commit fraud offences and to facilitate secure communication between organised crime groups.