Targeted approach or police cuts – why has the number of breath tests in Wales fallen steeply?

12.00 | 4 September 2017 | | 2 comments

New figures published by BBC News show a 50% year-on-year reduction in the number of drink driving tests conducted by police forces in Wales during the 2017 summer campaign.

The four forces in Wales carried out 4,622 breath tests in June this year, compared to 9,532 in June 2016.

While Gwent Police – which conducted just 88 tests this year, compared to 1,004 last year – says this was the result of a ‘more targeted approach’, the Police Federation says the reduction was due to traffic officer cuts.

Dyfed-Powys Police conducted 1,133 tests in June 2017, compared with 2,751 the previous year, while the figure for North Wales Police was 1,772 compared to 3,958. At 1,629 for June this year and 1,819 last year, the figure for South Wales Police changed much less significantly.

However, of the tests Gwent Police conducted in 2017, almost 40% were positive, refused or failed – compared to just 5% the previous year. In south Wales, the 2017 figure was 6.5%, compared to north Wales (4.1%) and Dyfed Powys (5.3%).

Supt Glyn Fernquest, force lead for roads policing in Gwent, told BBC News: “This year we have taken a targeted approach to tackling this issue, working with the community and acting on specific information provided to us.

“This has resulted in us being in the right place at the right time to deal with the small minority of irresponsible drivers, who make the decision to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or taking drugs.”

However Mark Jones, of the North Wales Police Federation, said the approach being adopted was a result of cuts to the number of police officers.

He told BBC News: “The number of dedicated traffic officers in the country is down by 30% since 2007.

“Looking at the figures, Gwent Police saw a huge drop in the number of breath tests that they conducted. They actually have dropped from 94 dedicated traffic officers in 2007 to none now so I’m not surprised that the number of breath tests have gone down.”

Category: Drink driving.


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    Honor, you don’t need to put any spin on it to see that Gwent were clearly delivering a more efficient use of their resources – thus better value for their hard-pressed taxpayers. Mind you, a 40% hit rate (even if it is 6 times better than their nearest rival) still means that 60% of their tests were a sheer waste of police time.

    We need to remember the point of policing is to catch criminals, not merely to provide jobs for police officers (despite what the Police Fed might hope). So if more efficiency, such as that explained by Supt Fernquests, not only delivers better results but also the requirement for less police officers, then so much the better.

    Charles, England
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    You have to admire Supt Fernquests brave effort to put a positive spin on the stats but Mr Jones’ explanation sounds rather more like it.

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
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