Police seek more cash to cope with migrants

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LONDON, Sep 19 (Reuters) A police chief in Eastern England today called on the government to provide more cash to fight crime as an influx of migrant workers pressures resources.

Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Julie Spence said officers were being stretched by a wave of immigration and a fast-changing population.

She said migration, mainly fuelled by the area's burgeoning agricultural industry, had major benefits but also a social downside including crime.

''We are the fastest growing county in the UK. We do have inward migration and as a county have taken 50 percent of the eastern region's migrant workers,'' she told BBC Radio.

''We've also been an asylum and dispersal centre,'' she said, adding that some elements that had moved in were engaging in criminal activity Spence said much of the crime was driven by foreigners not understanding basic British laws. For instance, knife crime had jumped becasue more people were carrying them to protect themselves.

She said drink-driving among foreigners had gone up 17 times in the space of a year, partly because individuals were behaving as if they were in their own country.

There were growing translation costs and a rise in offences such as credit card skimming and people-trafficking.

SHORT CHANGED ''We've been short-changed for a number of years, losing money as the population continues to grow,'' she said in a statement.

''The profile of the county has changed dramatically and this simply isn't taken into account when government allocates funding,'' she said.

''I think there is a very London-centric or Metroplitan- centric view of the world that that is where all the problems are.

''And I think there is a belief that sleepy rural don't have problems,'' she told BBC Radio, arguing that it was anything but the case.

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne acknowledged the burden of rising migration.

''It's vital that we take the social impact of immigration into account when we make migration decisions. It's because we want to hear voices like Julie Spence's that I set up the Migration Impacts Forum,'' he said in a statement.

''It's also important that those we welcome into the UK to work and settle here understand our traditions, learn English and use our language.'' Spence said the county is currently served by 183 officers per 100,000 of the population compared to the national average of 266.

She said a squeeze in funding because of out-of-date and inaccurate population figures had unfairly capped cash for her force in the past five years.

''We now deal with people from many different countries, speaking more than 90 different languages,'' Spence said, pointing out that Cambridge's population was predicted to grow by a further 90,000 people by 2016.

''While the economic benefits of growth are clear, we need to maintain the basic public services infrastructure which means increasing the number of officers we have.'' REUTERS SG HT1537

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