28/08/2023 – Police must investigate every theft and follow all reasonable leads to catch offenders, the home secretary has said – source: BBC
By Christy Cooney
Police must investigate every theft and follow all reasonable leads to catch offenders, the home secretary has said.
Suella Braverman said it was “completely unacceptable” that criminals are often “effectively free to break certain laws”.
She wants officers to use evidence from smart doorbells and dashcams to solve more lower-level crimes.
But there are concerns the approach may take resources away from high-harm crimes such as rape and sexual assault.
And Labour branded it a “staggering admission of 13 years of Tory failure on policing and crime”.
Data shows that, in the year to March, just 4.4% of all theft offences resulted in someone being charged.
New guidance on investigating such crimes is to be issued to all forces in England and Wales.
It follows talks between the Home Office, the National Police Chiefs’ Council – which is made up of senior officers from around the country – and the College of Policing, the professional body for policing staff.
Ms Braverman told BBC Breakfast: “There is no such crime as minor crime – whether it’s phone theft, car theft, watch theft, whether it’s street-level drug-dealing or drug use, the police must now follow every reasonable line of inquiry.”
That means police must to follow up on evidence such as CCTV, doorbell videos or GPS tracking of phone location where there is a chance that a suspect may be identified, she said.
She said she had come across “far too many complaints” from people who had things stolen and “calling up the police only to be given a crime reference number for insurance purposes“.
Home Office figures show that, of all theft cases closed in the year to March 2023, the proportion closed because no suspect had been identified was 73.7%, the highest rate for any category of crime.
In the same year, only 3.9% of residential burglaries resulted in someone being charged. The equivalent figure for vehicle theft was 1.8%, while for thefts from the person it was just 0.9%.
The announcement is welcome news for 31-year-old Chris from Birmingham, who was able to track down his fiancée’s card transactions after his car was broken into and the card stolen – but was told by police there was little they could do.
“I found out the exact time of this being used and also explained to the police that there were 15 cameras in the shop so the gentleman is caught on camera. Yet four weeks later nothing at all“, he said.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said police should be pursuing reasonable leads like CCTV anyway.
“The fact that the Tories are boasting about asking the police to do the basic minimum that victims of crime should rightly expect, whilst failing to tackle the underlying problems they have caused, shows how badly they have failed over the last 13 years,” she said.
In April, the government announced it had reached its target of recruiting an additional 20,000 more police officers in England and Wales, bringing the overall number of officers to 149,572.
But many of the new officers are replacing the approximately 20,000 who left between 2010 and 2019. The number of officers now is about 3,500 higher than it was in 2010, when the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government began cutting numbers, although the increase was not enough to make up for the growth in the population since then.
Concerns have been raised that the loss of high numbers of experienced officers between 2010 and 2019 could affect police performance.
Ms Braverman said England and Wales had a “record number of police officers ever in the history of policing” and: “It’s about ensuring that they are freed up from doing other time consuming tasks.”
Richard Garside, the director of the charity, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, says, while the new policy sounds like a “no-brainer”, he is concerned that it will divert resources away from more violent crimes such as rape and sexual assault.
“We have a tsunami of male sexual violence towards women and girls as it is,” he says.
“If the police are being told to put even more resources into tackling, say, car and phone crime, that means there’s going to be less time and less focus on those really serious violent offences that, quite rightly, the public are concerned about.”
In London, data from the Met Police showed that last year that 250 mobiles phones were stolen a day, an average of one every six minutes.
Ms Braverman denied police resources would be diverted away from tackling serious and complex crime – and insisted they have the resources.
She told BBC Breakfast that police “have the numbers” – and “this is about ensuring that those resources are properly diverted to what I call common-sense policing – back to basics policing, that they don’t dismiss certain crimes as unimportant or minor.”
Meanwhile, Lisa Townsend, Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner, says the word “reasonable” is open to interpretation.
“What’s reasonable for one force won’t necessarily be reasonable for another, given the types of crime that they’re investigating. And it’s absolutely right that police will always base it on threat, harm and risk.
“But certainly in my own force, and other forces, there are times that we should be investigating further and it’s absolutely reasonable, and the public and the government are right to expect us to do so.”
The home secretary instructed forces to pursue all reasonable crime leads despite squeeze on funding
Police chiefs have suggested the home secretary is interfering with their operational independence by demanding forces pursue all reasonable crime leads at a time when their resources are being outstripped by a rise in offences.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) raised serious doubts about an initiative Suella Braverman used to launch the government’s crime week with insistence that there was “no such thing as minor crime”.
Braverman instructed forces to follow all evidence such as footage from CCTV, doorbells and dashcams, as well as phone data, to find a suspect or stolen property.
The NPCC responded to the plan in an open letter to Braverman, which pointedly began: “For decades, police forces have had a duty to pursue all reasonable leads of an alleged crime.”
On Monday, Braverman said forces had the resources to pursue all reasonable leads, and pointed to the government’s restoration of 20,000 officers that were cut between 2010 and 2018.
However, the letter by the NPCC chair, chief constable Gavin Stephens, suggested her plan was unrealistic given the squeeze on police funding at a time of rising crime.
“To see trust in police return to where it used to be, an effectively staffed and properly funded police service is essential,” the letter said.
Stephens said that 21 of the 43 forces in England and Wales “still have less officers than in 2010”. He added: “It is therefore right that police chiefs have operational independence and are responsible for making difficult decisions around how best to respond to the breadth of priorities of local communities.”
The letter welcomed the restoration of 20,000 officers cut under austerity as a recognition by the government that “much more is needed to meet increasing and changing demands”. But it added: “There is much more that can and should be done. Although the additional officers go some way to support these changes the reality is that since 2010, the number of officers has increased by just 2.6%, while recorded crime has increased by 25%.”
Launching her initiative, Braverman repeated the government’s claim that crime has fallen in the last decade. This claim has been challenged by many including Full Fact, which said the figure does not include fraud or computer misuse.
The NPCC’s letter also said that crime was rising. It said: “In 2022/23, a total of 5.24m crimes were recorded by police – an increase of over 1m since 2010/11, when recorded crime sat at 4.15m. This means there is more recorded crime per police officer.”
The letter cited a series of additional pressures facing officers to suggest that the policy of pursuing all reasonable leads would be difficult and a distraction from local priorities. These included the increasing complexity of crime due to new technology and delays in the criminal justice system.
The letter said: “We have backlog in the court system due to increasing caseloads and prisons nearing capacity, placing pressure on police custody cells. We are all working hard to fix this within our own remits, but more needs to be done together.”
Braverman said: “The police have made progress in preventing crime across the country with neighbourhood offences like burglary, robbery and vehicle theft down by 51% since 2010.
“Despite this success, since I became home secretary I’ve heard too many accounts from victims where police simply haven’t acted on helpful leads because crimes such as phone and car thefts are seen as less important – that’s unacceptable. It has damaged people’s confidence in policing. Criminals must have no place to hide.”
Labour said Braverman’s initiative amounted to an admission of failure.
The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said: “Pursuing reasonable leads like CCTV is what the police should be doing, but – because of abysmal Tory management – over 90% of crimes go unsolved, the proportion of crimes prosecuted has dropped by more than two-thirds and more criminals are getting off.
“The fact that the Tories are boasting about asking the police to do the basic minimum that victims of crime should rightly expect, whilst failing to tackle the underlying problems they have caused, shows how badly they have failed over the last 13 years.”
29/08/2023 POLICE CHIEFS MUST HAVE ‘OPERATIONAL INDEPENDENCE’ IN RESPONDING TO CRIME, SAYS NPCC CHAIR – Police Professional
The chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) says police chiefs must have “operational independence” when deciding how best to respond to crime.
Chief Constable Gavin Stephens was responding to the announcement from Home Secretary Suella Braverman that police must pursue all “reasonable lines of inquiry” to solve more crimes.
The Home Secretary said it was “unacceptable” that crimes such as phone and car thefts, shoplifting and criminal damage are seen as less important.
Minister for Crime and Policing Chris Philp added there is no such thing as a “minor crime” and all merit proper investigation where there are leads to follow.
In an open letter to Ms Braverman and Mr Philp, Mr Stephens said: “Police forces have had a duty to follow all reasonable lines of inquiry for decades.
“However, growing demand as well as the increasing and changing nature of crime means consistency across forces varies. It is therefore right that police chiefs have operational independence and are responsible for making difficult decisions around how best to respond to the breadth of priorities of local communities.
“All chief constables have to make difficult decisions on resourcing and competing priorities. Protecting victims and delivering justice for them will always be at the heart of those decisions.”
Mr Stephens said while there has been a 2.6 per cent increase in police officer numbers nationally since 2010, the number of crimes reported to the police has increased 25 per cent.
Approximately 21 of 43 forces still have less officers than in 2010, he said.
Mr Stephens said neighbourhood policing is the “bedrock” and a vital part of how police can prevent crime and protect our communities.
“We believe that the number of neighbourhood officers should be increased,” he said, with better opportunities for continued professional development.
Mr Stephens also highlighted how the “complexity of crime” has increased in recent years and new emerging technology has provided police with additional leads that have greatly assisted investigations by using video images from doorbells, CCTV and dashcam footage.
“We are also continuously learning, including from publicly available 999 performance data to improve the speed at which emergency calls are answered so we can deliver the fastest possible response,” he added.
In the letter, he urges closer working on wider criminal justice reforms, of which policing is just one part, and calls for a long-term plan to go beyond the focus on officers and bolster essential and specialist police staff roles
“We recognise effective policing requires action not just words,” said Mr Stephens.
He highlighted some “great successes” over the past six to 12 months, including:
- The commitment to attend every home burglary across the country, ensuring victims receive the service they deserve wherever they are;
- Seizing £130 million of cannabis and arresting 1,000 people, as part of the largest ever crackdown on cannabis farms and the organised gangs behind them;
- Transforming the way police investigate rape and sexual offences, leading to charge rates and referrals to prosecutors increasing. For example, in Avon and Somerset Constabulary, one of the pathfinder forces, the volume of cases charged has more than tripled;
- Tackling gangs using a new tactic called ‘Clear, Hold, Build,’ where police officers ruthlessly pursue gang members until they are gone from an area, before working closely with the community to stop the gangs re-emerging;
- Removing almost 10,000 knives from the street and arresting almost 1,700 people as part of the national Operation Sceptre;
- Arresting around 2,000 protestors who have disrupted day-to-day life of communities; and
- Working with the NHS to ensure the right agency attends mental health callouts to provide better care.“If fully supported by new health services, this could mean up to one million hours redirected to fighting crime on our streets,” said Mr Stephens.
Policing is working hard to fight crime and do better for victims, he said, adding: “Victims are at the heart of what we do in policing. Protecting victims and delivering justice for them is why so many hard-working officers, staff and volunteers dedicate their lives to policing.
“Delivering a trusted, effective, and accessible police service is the shared ambition of everyone in policing. It is what we expect, and it is what victims and the public deserve.
“We welcome closer working with government and the criminal justice system to help achieve this.”