One person in four has never seen police officers on foot patrol in their local area, according to a Home Office study.
The figure was revealed in the British Crime Survey, which questioned 46,000 respondents in England and Wales about their experiences and perceptions of policing.
The study found more than 50 per cent were unaware of their local “neighbourhood policing teams” and almost 70 per cent of adults had not seen, read nor heard details about their local police.
Chief Constable Steve Finnigan, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said police were committed to providing a “visible” service despite reduced budgets.
“There is no doubt the funding cuts to the police has presented challenges in protecting the frontline. However, chief constables are committed to maintaining the service’s approach to neighbourhood policing and providing a visible, accessible and responsive service that tackles the issues that matter most to local people,” he said.
More than half of those polled (55 per cent) said they had seen a police officer or Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) on foot patrol at least once a month and about two-fifths (39 per cent) had seen an officer walking the beat at least once a week.
The report authors said the figures, for 2010/11, were similar to last year’s “but follow more substantial year-on-year increases in awareness since 2006/07, when the question was introduced”.
Awareness of local neighbourhood policing teams increased from 39 per cent in 2009/10 (when this question was first asked) to 44 per cent in 2010/11.
Around a quarter of people (23 per cent) contacted police (other than about local issues) in 2010/11, most commonly to report a personal or household crime. This was a fall from 43 per cent in 1993 and left the authors unsure of the precise reasons for the drop.
Police Minister Nick Herbert said: “We have swept away central targets and red tape to free up more officers for the frontline.”