Police chief admits up to 60 per cent of crime is not fully investigated because of a lack of officers

Charles Hymas
Ian Hopkins, chief constable of Greater Manchester, with Theresa May - AFP

Six in ten crimes are no longer fully investigated, one of Britain’s top police officers has admitted, as he warned thefts are “screened out” if there are no witnesses, CCTV or forensics.

Ian Hopkins, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, one of Britain’s biggest police forces, said about 600 offences a day, primarily thefts, were not being pursued because "we don't have enough officers.”

He said budget cuts meant police had to prioritise more ruthlessly than ever after his force had lost  about 2,000 officers in the past decade, taking his numbers down to 6,200.

“We record about a 1,000 crimes-a-day. Around 60 per cent are screened out very early on, so there is a very basic investigation undertaken then about 60 per cent are screened out,” Mr Hopkins told BBC Radio Manchester. The force sought to correct the figure almost 24 hours later to 43.4 per cent."

“We are having to target our resources to some of the more serious stuff like serious and organised crime, counter-terrorism. You just don't have the capacity to deal with some of these things.

“You could spend weeks investigating some things and you will never get an outcome because the solvability factors are just not there.

“If your life is in danger, you've been seriously hurt, we will still turn up. If there's an immediate threat we will be there and we will be there in numbers really quickly.

“But if your shed's been broken into, your bike's stolen, your vehicle's broken into and there's no witnesses, there's no CCTV and there's no opportunity for forensics, we'll be screening that out really quickly.

“Your likelihood of a police officer turning up to deal with that is almost non-existent and that's where the public have really started to feel it. That bit worries me.”

The number of offences screened out by Greater Manchester within 24 hours of being reported has more than doubled since 2014 from 47,000 to more than 100,000, data obtained by The Daily Telegraph under Freedom of Information laws shows.

He is the first police chief publicly to quantify the trend, which saw an estimated two million offences “screened out” last year, according to the data.

A Telegraph analysis of 10 police forces including the Metropolitan Police and Manchester showed almost 500,000 offences were ditched within 24 hours of being reported, which if scaled up would equate to around two million.

Last year, the Metropolitan Police recorded almost 200,000 undetected crimes that were closed on the same day as they were recorded.

Of these, 77,976 were thefts, the most common “screened out” crime, which increased from 12,805 in 2015.

The largest increase in “screened out” crimes was in robbery offences. There were just 23 undetected robbery crimes that were completed in under one day in 2015, but this had soared to 6,256 in 2018.

Over the past four years there has also been an increase nationally in violent and sexual crimes closed within 24 hours.

Sex offences recorded and then closed within a day rose from 703 to 1,605 from 2015 to 2018, while offences of violence against the person closed within 24 hours more than quadrupled from 11,927 to 44,548 in the same period.

One of Mr Hopkins' senior officers, Supt Rick Jackson, said screening out crimes was "a necessary evil"​ 

Police in Greater Manchester did not find a suspect in more than nine out of 10 bicycle thefts, thefts from people or vehicle crimes and in more than eight out of 10 burglaries. Theft from the person includes bag snatchers and pickpockets but not muggings and robberies.

Data for the year March 2018 to February 2019 also shows that investigations into a quarter of violent and sexual offences were completed with no suspect identified.

The other outcomes, totalling more than four in every 10 recorded crimes, included everything from suspects sent to court to investigations that were not pursued because it was not in the public interest. The data did not include antisocial behaviour.

Simon Kempton, Operational Policing Lead, Police Federation of England Wales (PFEW), said screening out crimes was “deeply frustrating” but was a decision more chief constables were having to make.

“Our members are trying to meet growing demand with dwindling numbers and we simply cannot do everything we once could, or that the public expect us to do,” he said.

 The Home Office said police funding this financial year would rise by the greatest amount since 2010: “We recognise the impact crime has on victims and want offenders brought to justice. We are committed to ensuring police forces have the resources they need to carry out their vital work.”