Victims of burglary being failed by police and 'not getting justice they deserve', watchdog says

11 August 2022, 05:54 | Updated: 11 August 2022, 09:03

Police Chief says public want police to focus on traditional issues

By Sophie Barnett

Most victims of burglary, robbery and theft in England and Wales are being failed by police and are not being given the justice they deserve, the police watchdog has warned.

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The damning report found charge rates "unacceptable and unsustainable" for the vast majority of burglary victims, following a backdrop of shocking figures.

Latest Home Office data shows just 6.6% of robbery offences and 4.2% of thefts in England and Wales resulted in a charge in the year to December 2021.

Officers are also "missing opportunities" to catch suspects from the moment crimes are reported, the watchdog concluded.

The bombshell report comes amid increasing concern that police are putting too much focus on "woke" issues and not enough on crimes such as burglary and theft.

Andy Cooke, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said failing to target burglary, robbery, and theft - classed as serious acquisitive crime (SAC) - "damages public confidence in policing".

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He told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast there will always be a need to police social media, but said officers should "focus on what's important to the public".

"Police chiefs do not make the law, they follow the law, and they do need to focus on issues that matter to the community, and burglary, robbery and theft from vehicles are very much issues that matter to communities," he said.

"It strikes the heart of communities and makes people feel unsafe in their own homes, their own neighbourhoods."

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He added: "I think policing is doing an awful lot right at the moment, but sadly in relation to these offences we are seeing opportunities being missed on many occasions that are preventing offenders being brought to justice, and victims getting the closure that they would want in relation to offences.

"Policing needs to do better around this."

He explained that the system and the oversight of the system is "failing", and said victims are not being updated as they should be.

He said police are not always focussing on the preventative side of these crimes, and are often not placing the resource where it's needed to prevent them occurring.

Mr Cooke said part of this is down to having a "very young" set of officers who are inexperienced, explaining that 31% of officers have under five years service.

He said they have had an uplift of 20,000 officers on last year, but this "rapid influx of new officers does bring in inexperience".

However, he insisted there are "really good elements" of good practices around the country, and urged forces to learn from each other.

"365 days a year, police officers are doing a fantastic job in keeping us safe," he said.

"They are brave, dedicated professionals and the public should have confidence in them."

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that in 71% of burglary reports it examined, police had not given victims any advice on how to preserve the crime scene during their initial call, meaning vital evidence may have been lost.

Some forces are failing to recognise repeat victims or conduct good enough vulnerability risk assessments, the report found.

Forces were also found to often lack capacity to investigate and, in some instances, the capability of officers was called into question due to a lack of practical skills and lack of access to joint tasking or problem-solving processes.

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Many frontline uniformed response officers tasked with investigating these types of crimes said administration and competing demands delayed investigations, the report revealed.

Meanwhile, compliance with the code of practice for victims of crime in England and Wales, also known as the Victims' Code, which sets out the rights of victims, was "inadequate" in 46% of investigations and victim needs assessments were "rarely" completed.

The report pointed to a national detective shortage and a large number of inexperienced officers as contributing factors to poorer responses, as well as pressure on operators to take 999 calls and collect the "bare minimum" of information from victims.

Mr Cooke said many detectives felt "disengaged and devalued and frustrated that they can't give the quality of service that the victims deserve".

The report concluded that by 2023 all police forces must ensure burglary, theft and robbery crime scenes are managed according to national standards, and that investigations are effectively supervised and directed.

"Burglary, robbery and theft are not minor crimes," Mr Cooke said.

"There needs to be a concerted drive to address this issue because it directly affects the public's confidence in the police's ability to keep them safe."

SAC includes personal robbery, theft from a person, theft of and from a motor vehicle, and domestic burglary, but does not include commercial burglary or robbery of business property.

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