England and Wales police fail burglary victims, inspection finds | Police
Police fail victims of burglaries and robberies, miss opportunities to catch thieves, which leads to lack of trust in the forces, the official inspection found.
Errors were found in seven of 10 cases examined, with victims suffering a postcode lottery in the way police handled their theft, Her Majesty’s Police and Fire and Rescue Services Inspectorate said (HMICFRS).
Austerity was a factor, leaving officers inexperienced to deal with burglaries, with a severe shortage of trained detectives meaning they had to focus on more serious crimes. Only 6% of burglaries and 4% of thefts resulted in a charge.
Andy Cooke, the Constabulary’s chief inspector, said while years of Tory cuts were having a detrimental effect, the forces were not using the resources they already had and needed to get back to basics.
Video doorbell evidence capturing suspects was missed because police lacked digital forensic capability, and seven in 10 callers were not given crime prevention advice, and sometimes were not given preservation advice forensics in case officers wish to investigate. Cooke said he expected – but could not order – that every victim whose home is broken into will be visited by the police.
“It’s not rocket science,” Cooke said, issuing another round of warnings to forces about the need to tackle burglaries and thefts. Parts of the report have an exasperated tone, and the report itself is titled: Finding Time for Crime.
The inspectorate said there were failures in assessing the vulnerability of victims in four of the 10 cases it examined, for example if a person is elderly and particularly at risk, with “failures for many understand the basics of investigation and prevention” happening all too often, Cooke said.
The Chief Inspector added: ‘With the resources that police services are currently using to investigate these offences…systematically they are not doing the right thing in the majority of cases. With the resources at their disposal, they make elementary mistakes.
Cooke said the lack of basic counseling for victims had damaging consequences. “On occasion, households will be evacuated before the police arrive,” he said.
The inspection said homes within 400 meters of a burglary are at higher risk for the next six weeks.
Furthermore, 25% of thefts and burglaries were concentrated in 5% of England and Wales, with the three largest strength areas suffering more offenses and their forces struggling; these are the Metropolitan Police, West Midlands and Greater Manchester. West Yorkshire Police, the fourth largest, are doing better.
The investigators too often lacked experience, sometimes struggling to put together a file of evidence to go to court, sometimes having never brought the case to court.
The HMICFRS said supervision of these inexperienced officers could be poor, with the findings raising questions about police leadership.
The government promises 20,000 officers to replace those lost in the Conservative cuts. About 68% have been recruited, but they will take time to learn their trade. Cooke said austerity explained but did not excuse mistakes. “So this demand, this inexperience, as well as the pressure put on the police throughout this period of austerity has undoubtedly had an impact on us,” he added.
The Tories fear their law and order record could cost them in the general election as voters are unconvinced they have the right policies. The police face a dual crisis of legitimacy and also how responsible they are for plummeting crime clearance rates.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: ‘The Tories have spent 12 years crushing our police, leading to overstretched and inexperienced officers, abandoned victims and abandoned criminals.
“As leadership contestants vie for headlines and gimmicks, Labor has a plan to reinstate Neighborhood Policing to get officers back on track and help restore public confidence in the police .”
Cooke said the screening of burglaries, where some crimes go uninvestigated, should end and, while he sympathized with the increasing demands on the forces, he said thefts and burglaries had a huge impact on the victims.
Cooke said: “Burglary, robbery and theft are not petty offences. These are crimes that strike at the heart of how safe people feel in their own homes or communities. The current low charge rates for these crimes are unacceptable and unsustainable – there must be concerted action to address this issue as it directly affects public confidence in the ability of the police to keep them safe.
Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, speaking on behalf of the National Police Chiefs Council on Burglary and Theft, said: “‘Chief Constables will always have to make tough operational decisions, including dispatching agents, based on an assessment of the level of threat and risk. Particularly for these types of offences, the police focus on targeting prolific offenders, organized crime networks and putting in place effective prevention measures.