Removing more than 1,000 auxiliary police officers from daily beat duties has helped cause a rise in crime, part-time force members say. A group of auxiliary officers has written to legislators after Police Commissioner Eddie Hui Ki-on rejected a petition with 3,400 signatures demanding a review of reforms. The changes will see the number of officers cut from 5,721 to 4,500 in the next three to five years through natural wastage. Auxiliary officers' beat patrol duties will be limited to eight hours a month and be conducted with regular officers as 'on-the-job training'. The change means an end to the daily four-hour patrols by more than 1,000 auxiliary officers. The officers said in the letter that the rise of 8.4 per cent in the number of crimes in the first three quarters of this year compared to the same period last year was related to the cut in beat patrol duties. They said beat patrol duty hours in April to August this year had dropped 73 per cent compared with the same period last year. 'The reduction in the patrol duties of auxiliary officers is reflected in the rise in the crime rate over the past six months,' the letter said. The first three quarters' crime rate saw increases in some quick-cash crime, including a 60 per cent rise in robberies with suspected firearms and a 26 per cent rise in pickpocketing, it said. The letter added that several officers had lost confidence in police work because of the limited hours on beat patrol. The officers demanded the reforms be suspended and reviewed by a committee chaired by an independent person and composed of members from the auxiliary force. The force's management has rejected the link between the reform and the law-and-order situation, saying there were fewer crimes in the first half of this year than the latter half of 1998. It also said the force had put more than 1,000 regular officers on reserve since 1995 to provide enough manpower for beat patrols. The management believed the new policy to provide an annual 208 hours of training for auxiliary officers, including 96 hours on beat patrol, was adequate. Police chiefs said no unexpected manpower loss had been recorded since the overhaul was announced in April. But they said consultation on the reform and its pace of implementation could have been improved.