A Yorkshire police force has replaced most of the officers it has lost since Government cuts began – with £25 cardboard cutouts.
South Yorkshire Police insist the static displays are effective and have credited them with helping to slash crime by up to 50 per cent in the areas where they have been deployed.
The force has seen its numbers of officers dwindle to less than 2,900 at present from a high of 3,289 in 2008 before budget restrictions began to bite.
As remaining officers find new ways to tackle crime, senior officers decided to spend £7,000 ordering a force of 280 cardboard cutouts, which are life size colour images of a uniformed officer.
Forty are being held as a reserve, with the rest now providing a visible police presence across the county. They are displayed in shop doorways or foyers where shoplifting is a problem and the force says they are responsible, in conjunction with other police tactics, for reductions in crime of up to 50 per cent.
However, the deterrent effect does not always work and at least one of the static displays has been the target of attention from criminals in Barnsley.
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “The rationale for purchase and delivery to the store was based upon research indicating previous success at reducing crime in other countries and elsewhere in UK – it shows the stores are working in partnership with the police to tackle retail crime and puts at the forefront of potential thieves mind the issue that ‘police’ may be present in the stores or area they are targeting.
“As an example in Doncaster where some of these cardboard officers have been deployed (in conjunction with other crime reduction work) we have seen a decrease in crime by 50 per cent in certain stores and other reductions in other stores around South Yorkshire.
“The national research has shown that elsewhere in the country similar tactics have reduced crime by 35 per cent.
“Costs are dependent upon quantity ordered. They work out at approximately £25 each.
“The cardboard officers are issued to stores that agree to work in partnership with SYP to reduce retail crime and adopt many other policies such as deployment of plain clothed officers, implementation of crime reduction measures, improved CCTV and reporting systems; there is a comprehensive retail crime reduction strategy that the owners have to agree and work with SYP to achieve.”