UK & World News

  • 4 September 2014, 10:51

Police Asking Victims To 'Investigate Own Crimes'

Hard-pressed police forces are "encouraging" victims of high-volume crimes to carry out their own investigations, a policing watchdog has warned.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said the "emerging trend" was identified in an investigation into 43 forces in England and Wales.

In a report summarising its findings, HMIC said its inspectors had witnessed call-handlers asking victims of offences like vehicle crime and "burglaries of properties other than dwellings" to assess the likelihood of the crime being solved.

It said some forces asked victims whether there was any CCTV footage of the area, any potential fingerprint evidence and whether the victim knew if there were any witnesses to the crime. 

In some cases victims were asked to interview their neighbours and to search for their property on second-hand sales websites.

"HMIC finds this expectation by these forces that the victim should investigate his own crime both surprising and a matter of material concern," the report said.

"The police have been given powers and resources to investigate crime by the public, and there should be no expectation on the part of it."

Inspector of Constabulary Roger Baker, who led the inspection, said overall police forces have "done a good job in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour".

However he said the emerging trend suggested many officers have essentially "given up" on investigating high-volume crimes.

"It's more a mindset, that we no longer deal with these things," he said.

"Effectively what's happened is a number of crimes are on the verge of being decriminalised.

"So it's not the fault of the individual staff, it's a mindset thing that's crept in to policing to say 'we've almost given up'."

The report, named 'Core Business: an inspection into crime prevention, police attendance and the use of police time,' investigated a number of aspects of modern policing, including response to calls, quality of investigation and the use of technology.

Among its findings, HMIC said some forces were losing track of suspects and wanted persons as their systems for actively pursuing them were not up to scratch.

It also identified a policing "postcode lottery", saying attendance rates at crime scenes varied widely between police forces.

In the year to November 30, 2013, for example, 100% of crimes in Cleveland were attended by a police officer.

In Warkwickshire, however, that figure stood at just 39%.

The report also criticised the use of technology in policing across the board as "inadequate."

Shadow Policing Minister Jack Dromey said: "The HMIC report provides damning evidence that the decisions made by this Tory-led government are hitting the public ever harder with victims being let down and, extraordinarily, some even being asked to investigate their own crime.

"Theresa May has cut more police officers than any other country in Europe. With 16,000 gone, the thin blue line is being stretched ever thinner."