LANCASHIRE Police will form an extra major investigation team in response to what the force’s chief constable described as the “massive hike in murders” last year.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, there were 26 homicides in the county in the 12 months to September 2019.

The number of murders during 2017/18 was 14.

Chief Constable Andy Rhodes said the unit would be funded for the next year while the force established whether the numbers were a one-off spike or “the new normal”.

A meeting of the county’s police and crime panel heard that an extra 30 detectives were also being added to Lancashire’s investigation hubs, focusing on exploitation offences and safeguarding.

Half a dozen detectives and one sergeant are also bound for the child abuse protection team, a near-doubling of the force’s capacity.

“Sexual offences and child protection investigations are now the bread and butter of the detective world.

“It’s no longer armed robbery, it’s all sexual offences – whether historic or current,” Mr Rhodes said.

“The more money you put into the National Crime Agency and Child Exploitation and Online Protection, the more child abuse images they generate. It’s almost like it’s endless – the more people you look for, the more crimes you find.

“Millions of indecent images are being shared, and behind every image is a child who is being abused.”

Other investments being made in 2020/21 include 12 case-builders, along with two managers to oversee them. The team will use its expertise in putting together files for consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service in order to help the number of less experienced officers who will be joining the force as part of nationwide recruitment plans.

The cyber and asset recovery teams will also see extra resources and there will be more “proactive targeting” of the crimes that “get on local communities’ nerves”, Mr Rhodes said.

However, he warned that further investment was needed in the force’s capacity for carrying out the most complex investigations.

Mr Rhodes added that more effective engagement with the community would also be prioritised in the coming year, because of recent instances where “quite a small, low-impact crime has been blown massively out of proportion, because we haven’t got in quickly enough to tell people what’s happening."

The meeting heard that another 15 sergeants will be installed in the county’s policing hubs to reduce the number of constables for which each of them is responsible. Nine inspectors will provide new leadership in the “place” areas into which the force is divided.

Last year’s investment in several dozen task group officers was deemed a success for having provided additional operational capabilities for such as drugs jobs.

Meanwhile, the increasing use of drones rather than the shared police helicopter was credited with saving the force about £300,000. “It launches quicker, there aren’t as many reasons why it can’t fly around and they get some great images,” Mr Rhodes said.