UNDERFUNDING of traffic officers means Wiltshire Police “cannot provide effective enforcement”, a union has said.

PC Tom Wilson, Wiltshire Police Federation representative, said the number of specialist traffic cops had fallen from 142 in 1998 when he joined the force to 24 today.

He said: “That gives you an idea of the scale of the task that faces us in terms of getting those number back up so that we can become effective again in terms of responding to incidents and, more importantly, with 24 officers you just cannot provide an effective enforcement.”

Responsibility for roads policing in Wiltshire used to lie with the Tri-Force collaboration between Wiltshire Police, Avon and Somerset Police and Gloucestershire Constabulary.

But the service moved back in house last year when Tri-Force – set up just five years earlier – was disbanded.

At the time managers warned there was a shortfall in the number of crash investigators within the county. The specialist officers probe fatal crashes and those that result in serious injuries.

A report prepared by the police and crime commissioner’s chief executive Kieran Kilgallen said: “Pre-collaboration, Wiltshire had a notable local crash investigation unit capability.

“However, the force currently secures this service through financial contribution to the regional operating model but in real terms only has two qualified forensic collision investigators.”

Responding to the Federation comments, Wiltshire Police’s lead for specialist operations Supt Gavin Williams said: “I know the public will have understandable concerns about the changes to our roads policing operations over the years – including the decline in officer numbers.

“However, it is important to consider these figures in the wider context of modern-day policing.

“It is no secret that police officer numbers overall have reduced, and that Wiltshire Police, like all police forces, have increased our numbers of police staff in operational roles, as well as our volunteer opportunities.

“However, we are currently going through an ongoing recruitment drive to significantly boost our police officer numbers over the coming years.

“Here in Wiltshire we are committed to road safety and we have a number of measures in place to keep people safe.

“Our approach cannot just be about enforcement, we focus on preventative work – improving road safety through education, including young people yet to start driving, and a lot of this work is done through our partners, including the fire service, who lead on Safe Drive Stay Alive.

“We also have our highly successful Community Speed Watch schemes, as well as advances in technology, such as ANPR cameras, to monitor and deter our most-prolific criminals and dangerous road users.”