Concerns have been raised about a drop in the number of “bobbies on the beat” in the north-east after new figures showed the region lost 27 police officers in a year.
Official data revealed yesterday there were 3,356 officers based in Grampian on June 30 this year, with a local “core” of 1,164, and the rest involved in specialist teams.
It represented a fall of 27 on the 3,383 recorded in the same quarter last year, while the “local resource complement” had dropped by 29 from 1,193.
In contrast, there were 20 additional officers in the Highlands and islands division during the first quarter of this financial year, up from 2,827 last year to 2,847.
Across Scotland, there were 17,172 full-time equivalent (FTE) police officers in Scotland on June 30, up by two on the previous quarter but down by 77 on the same period last year.
Liam Kerr, north-east MSP and Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, said: “It will be very concerning to communities across the north-east that the number of police officers is down from last year.
“Visibility is a key element of tackling crime and provides welcome reassurance to the public.
“It is difficult to maintain confidence that people will be kept safe when numbers are dwindling like this, however.
“Having fewer bobbies on the street makes it harder for police to maintain that vital local presence and to protect the north-east public.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur said: “Officers are stretched to the extent that they are warning beat policing has ‘effectively died off entirely’ in some areas.”
However, Chief Inspector Jacqueline Craig said: “Within north east division we project any upcoming vacancies, often due to retiral, and look to fill those posts through well-established recruitment campaigns with proven track records.
“At the moment we have 29 people going through training at Scottish Police College who will be out working within our communities as police constables as of next month.
“A further 18 recruits will join them in the next cohort. A quarterly snapshot at any one given time is not reflective of the wider picture in terms of our establishment and we report on a six-monthly basis to scrutiny boards in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray.”