Inspector of Constabulary finds victims asked to investigate crimes

From BBC News:

Victims of crime are being “encouraged” to investigate offences themselves, an inspection of police forces in England and Wales has found.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary said criminal damage and car crime were “on the verge of being decriminalised” because forces had “almost given up”.

In some cases victims were asked to check for CCTV or fingerprints.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said austerity meant forces had to set priorities.

‘Material concern’
The review also found that police community support officers were being used as “detectives” in some forces.

The inspector who led the review, Roger Baker, said: “It’s more a mindset, that we no longer deal with these things. And effectively what’s happened is a number of crimes are on the verge of being decriminalised.”

He added: “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’.”

Victims of high-volume offences such as vehicle crime and “burglaries of properties other than dwellings” were asked questions by call-handlers to assess the likelihood of the crime being solved, inspectors found.

HMIC said that in some forces, if they did not know the answers to those questions, they were “asked to speak to neighbours, check for CCTV or view second-hand sales websites to see if their stolen property is being advertised for sale”.

Prioritising calls
The watchdog added: “HMIC finds this expectation by these forces that the victim should investigate his own crime both surprising and a matter of material concern.

“The police have been given powers and resources to investigate crime by the public, and there should be no expectation on the part of the police that an inversion of that responsibility is acceptable.”

The report also found:

  • People received a different response from the police for the same kind of incident, depending on where they lived
  • Attendance rates at crime scenes varied from 39% in Warwickshire to 100% in Cleveland
  • About a third of forces were failing to identify vulnerable and repeat victims
  • There was “inadequate” use of technology by the police
  • Some forces were losing track of named suspects because they did not have effective systems in place

HMIC made 40 recommendations for forces to improve their performance.

Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said: “The reality of austerity in policing means that forces must ensure that their officers’ time is put to best use and this means prioritising calls.”

In some cases this meant a victim who was not in danger would be dealt with over the phone, he said, adding that this was “not an abdication of forces’ duty of care to victims.”

The Metropolitan Police said it had a “clear policy where officers will attend all reports of crimes and incidents where a victim wishes”.

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