The number of special constables volunteering alongside police officers in the north-east has fallen by a quarter since 2013.
Policing in Scotland became the responsibility of a single force that year when there were 117 volunteers serving alongside regular officers in A Division – which covers Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray.
However, as of March this year there were just 88 special constables registered in the area, marking a decrease of around 25%.
But the number is an increase on the figure for 2019, when there were only 77 volunteer officers.
North-east MSP Liam Kerr, the Scottish Conservatives’ shadow justice secretary, warned numbers were in “freefall” – and called on ministers to arrest the slide.
He said: “Special constables play an important role in policing our streets and engaging with communities and this huge drop in numbers since the creation of Police Scotland is alarming.
“They are integral to the overall operation in deterring crime. As such, the SNP must improve these numbers urgently – they are in freefall.
“The SNP have done nothing to address falling numbers and Humza Yousaf must act to put specials back into our communities.”
Special constables work with full-time officers in their spare time and often undertake high-visibility work, such as patrolling the streets and interacting with communities.
But across the country, more than 870 volunteers have been lost since the introduction of Police Scotland.
The number fell from 1,387 in 2013 to 511 in March this year.
Fewer constables have been recruited – 20 were drafted in the north-east in 2013, with 15 taking up the role last year.
But those 15 were part of just 73 nationwide, compared to 251 seven years previously.
Assistant Chief Constable John Hawkins said more than 500 special constables had resigned to take up employment as full-time officers over the past seven years.
This includes 58 special constables in the north-east.
He said: “We recognise the vital role Special Constables play in supporting conventional officers in a variety of policing duties.
“In particular, Special Constables responded overwhelmingly to an appeal for support during coronavirus, and have given tens of thousands of hours of their time since March.
“In addition to providing a service to their communities, Special Constables receive extensive training and develop skills that have both professional and personal benefits.
“Since April 2013 more than 500 people have left the Special Constables to become full-time officers and have either used the role as a valuable opportunity to gain experience or realised that they want to pursue a career in policing.
“We also actively recruit and are always keen to welcome more Special Constables into the Service. In February, we launched a nationwide campaign to encourage more people to consider this opportunity to give something back to communities.
“If you are looking for a way to make a genuine difference in your community, please consider joining us as a Special Constable.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While we value the voluntary service provided by Special Constables to keep our communities safe, their recruitment and deployment is an operational matter for the Chief Constable, as is the detailed balance of officers, civilian specialists and other police staff.
“Despite constraints on Scotland’s public services through a decade of UK austerity, our investment in policing this year has increased by 5.1% to more than £1.2 billion. Scotland has significantly more officers than at any time before 2007 – while over the same period numbers in England and Wales were cut by almost 13,000.”