Police response to burglary, robbery and theft ‘not good enough’, report finds

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services found a number of shortcomings in some police forces.

10 August 2022

Most victims of burglary, robbery and theft “aren’t getting the justice they deserve” amid concerns about police missing opportunities in investigations, according to a new report.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found a number of shortcomings in some police forces across England and Wales in dealing with the offences.

It comes against a backdrop of recent Home Office data which showed 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.

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”.

He added: “The response to SAC from policing isn’t consistently good enough. Too many offenders remain at liberty and most victims aren’t getting the justice they deserve.

“Forces are missing opportunities to identify and catch offenders, from the moment a member of the public reports the crime to the point where a case is finalised.

“Depending on where in England and Wales they live, some victims of SAC are more likely than others to get a thorough investigation from their force. This can’t be justified.”

HMICFRS said 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.

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary and Chief Fire & Rescue Inspector Andy Cooke interview
Andy Cooke said policing of burglary, robbery, and theft ‘isn’t consistently good enough’ (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

HMICFRS also discovered forces 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.

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

According to HMICFRS, “too often” forces’ digital forensic, technological and analytical capability was not good enough to let them carry out thorough investigations.

In addition, it found there was insufficient supervision and direction of investigations in one third of cases.

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”.

HMICFRS has statutory responsibility for the inspection of police forces and fire and rescue services in England and Wales.

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.

HMICFRS has now made a set of recommendations to forces in order to improve their approach, including giving victims timely and appropriate advice during their initial call, carrying out risk assessments, clearly recording them, and flagging those re-victimised for further support.

In addition, it recommends that all forces should ensure SAC investigations are subject to effective supervision and direction.

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