Victims of assaults, burglaries and theft are receiving a “limited service” from the police “if any service at all,” Her Majesty’s chief inspector of police has warned.
Sir Tom Winsor said some crime investigations had been reduced to little more than a telephone conversation with the victim where only the basic facts were recorded without any further action.
He said it meant victims were losing faith in the police with fewer and fewer willing to support officers in pursuing crimes because they held out such little hope that their perpetrator would be prosecuted.
The proportion of offences solved has plummeted from 14 per cent in 2015 to 7.3 per cent in 2019 while the proportion of crimes closed because the victim did not support a prosecution has risen from 8.7 per cent to 22.6 per cent in the same period.
“The likelihood of the police bringing someone to justice following a criminal investigation is falling. The proportion of crimes closed because the victim doesn’t support a prosecution is rising,” said Sir Tom in his annual review of the state of policing
“And there is limited understanding as to why so many victims seem to be losing faith in the criminal justice system.”
His comments came as the Government urged police chiefs to prosecute shoplifters stealing under £200 after complaints from retailers that forces are no longer interested in smaller scale thefts.
Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, is to write to chief constables saying the theft of goods valued up to £200 from a shop “should be prosecuted as a criminal offence.”
“I am particularly concerned to hear individuals are not reporting retail crime, as they accept it as part of their job or because they do not have the confidence in the response they will receive when they do. This must change,” he said after a Government review found rising violence against shop staff.
Sir Tom said forces’ focus on serious crime and safeguarding with limited resources had a “worrying consequence” that the police could not provide the “consistently-high” levels of service the public expected across the “gamut of crime.”
“In the words of one chief constable: ‘Victims of “less serious” crimes receive a limited service, if any service at all.’ Some of our inspections bear out this downbeat observation,” he added. Even in one of the best forces, Durham, 13 percent of burglaries and 14 per cent of vehicle crimes in 2018/19 were solved, compared to 23 percent of violent crimes. Nationally, it was just six per cent, three per cent and 13 per cent respectively, said Sir Tom.
“Some crime investigation processes have been reduced to little more than a telephone conversation with the victim, in which just the basic facts of the allegation are recorded,” he said
“Also, for those trying to contact the police using the 101 non-emergency number, call waiting times can be unacceptably long. At its core, the problem is that the demand for policing considerably outstrips supply.”
Fraud was particularly poor, and rape victims, where reports to police have trebled in a decade, had seen charging, prosecution and conviction rates plunge, he said.
Although forces were improving in tackling serious and organised crimes, a national shortage of trained investigators and detectives meant forces were “less able to meet the demands of other high-volume crimes such as burglary, assault and theft.”
Boris Johnson’s extra 20,000 officers would narrow the gap between demand and supply but “it won’t close it,” he said. “And it will create higher public expectations, particularly in relation to police visibility – for example, calls for a greater deterrent police presence in cities, towns and villages.
“Many people would favour the return of the old-fashioned village bobby. But the old ways of doing things are no match for the increased complexity and volume of modern crime.”