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Burglary and theft cases impacted by high demand and more, leaders warn

Increasing demand and limited resources have impacted on theft and burglary clear-up rates, policing leaders have warned.

The cracks in policing’s ability to tackle crime are showing - and frontline officers aren’t to blame leaders have said.

The responses from senior figures to the HMI report on theft and burglary did not reject the conclusions made by Chief Inspector Andy Cooke and his team.

HMI’s report said low charging rates are ‘unacceptable and unsustainable’ and called for forces to go back to basics.

But frontline officers and Chiefs made clear that the huge increase in demand across all types of offending and pressure to support the NHS is now pulling officers in too many directions.

The Police Federation said the report was damning and accused the government of ignoring warnings from officers about the deteriorating service.

Federation Chair Steve Hartshorn told Police Oracle: “PFEW told the government that cuts would have consequences – and sadly they have.

“The Federation, by its very make up, knows policing and listens to the members about the issues they face in dealing with crime. We advised the government of those issues – and that cannot be denied.”

The impact of pay decisions was behind the exodus of experienced officers is a critical factor, he warned.

Mr Hartshorn said the government had spent months dithering: “My speech to the conference this year raised many issues that appear to have been left to others to rectify which simply isn’t right or fair on either officers or the public we protect.”

The College of Policing said the offences are a critical issue for the public.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh, College of Policing CEO, said: “Burglary and theft have a devastating effect on people and it is often one of the only times members of the public will call for our help.

"It is common sense to make sure policing is doing the fundamentals well and HMIC is absolutely right to recommend the full adoption of existing national standards on managing investigations for burglary, robbery and theft with effective supervision.

“Only by taking a consistent approach will we fully protect the public and not let burglars off the hook.”

The increased threshold for the Crown Prosecution Service charging decisions was also raised as a factor in the reduction in prosecution rates.

Chiefs said their officers were doing the best they could with multiple problems.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Acquisitive Crime, Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman said: “Increased demand has led to forces prioritising cases with a realistic prospect of prosecution. Police can, and do, use alternatives outcomes like cautions or restorative justice where it is appropriate to do so. We will always prioritise attending home burglaries and provide support to those victims who may be particularly vulnerable, such as the isolated elderly.”

DCC Blakeman added: "Chief Constables will always have to make difficult operational decisions, including the dispatching of officers, based on an assessment of the level of threat and risk. Particularly for these types of offences, police focus on targeting prolific offenders, organised crime networks, and ensuring effective prevention measures are in place."

HM Chief Inspector Andy Cooke said the public’s trust in police was being eroded – and forces agreed.

“We absolutely recognise how invasive and traumatic it is to be a victim of these serious offences and police take them seriously, already investing significant resources in preventing and investigating serious acquisitive crime," DCC Blakeman said.

“This report highlights where there are gaps, identifies where police are getting it right, and acknowledges the significant demands on the service. We will now look at these findings in greater detail and work to assist forces in implementing improvements to their force level responses. Through Operation Uplift, forces are already working to increase capacity, bringing more detectives in to policing and training them to a high standard.”  

Police and Crime Commissioners accepted the criticism – and HMI’s demand to work better with resources available. But they also acknowledged the reality of low morale and the limited prospects of extra resources from central government.

APCC Joint Local Policing Leads and Police and Crime Commissioners Steve Turner and Jeff Cuthbert said: “Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary labels the low charge rates across forces as ‘unacceptable and unsustainable’. As Commissioners we will continue to hold our forces to account and we will be monitoring these figures very closely going forwards.

“We will ensure these recommendations receive the necessary attention and action they require, with a view to supporting forces in their compliance of the victims code of practice.

“We know that prevention can also be key and as PCCs we are best placed to deliver on this locally. We will continue our work around funding services and initiatives to support all victims of crime and reduce crime in our communities.”

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