Police officers are being removed from their posts as missing persons officers in a cost-cutting move in South Yorkshire.
There are currently five police officers and one civilian who specialise in investigations into missing people by working with other agencies to establish those at risk of going missing and putting interventions in place in a bid to prevent them disappearing.
The officers are to be removed from their posts and civilians, who are cheaper, will replace them.
Police chiefs are in the process of finding savings of £49 million because of Government funding cuts.
Nearly 5,000 investigations into missing people were carried out in South Yorkshire over an 11-month period last year.
There were 4,894 reports of missing people lodged between January 1 and December 1 – 1,901 in Sheffield, 1,166 in Doncaster, 968 in Barnsley and 859 in Rotherham.
The figure was up from 2,928 over the same period in 2013 and 2,720 in 2012.
Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Simon Palmer, of South Yorkshire Police, said: “South Yorkshire Police see this as a vital role in reducing episodes of missing from home and continue to support the function fully with dedicated and committed staff.
“However, it is an area where the warranted powers of a police officer are rarely used and the skills and abilities of the individuals in those roles are most important factors.
“The force has to make significant savings to its budget and this is just one area where we are looking to reduce costs while maintaining the best possible service.
“Both police officers and civilian staff currently perform the role, and this change will bring a consistent approach.”