Statement on HMICFRS report regarding police response to serious acquisitive crime
Main article content
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has published a Police Effectiveness report for all forces across the country, focused on the police response to serious acquisitive crime, which includes residential burglary.
The report was compiled from findings of inspections that took place during the last two years and is the first to be published by former Merseyside Police Chief, Andy Cooke, in his new role as HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary.
The police inspectorate found that across the country, the police response to burglary, robbery and theft is inconsistent. In the report, Mr. Cooke states:
“Burglary, robbery and theft are not minor crimes. They are crimes that strike at the heart of how safe people feel in their own homes or communities. The current low charge rates for these crimes are unacceptable and unsustainable – 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.
“At the moment, depending on where in England and Wales they live, some victims are more likely than others to get a thorough investigation from their force. This postcode lottery can’t be justified. We found that from the moment a victim reports a crime until that case is finalised, forces are missing opportunities to gather vital evidence and bring offenders to justice.
“A lack of experienced officers means that too often, these crimes are being investigated poorly and are not adequately supervised – often because supervisors themselves are inexperienced and overstretched.
“We found that some police forces are working hard to tackle these crimes and uncovered some excellent examples of innovative and effective practice. We hope that other forces will follow these examples.”
HMICFRS has recommended that by March 2023, all police forces should ensure that:
their crime-scene management practices adhere to the authorised professional practice on managing investigations for burglary, robbery and theft; and
these investigations are subject to effective supervision and direction.
Following publication of the PEEL spotlight report, Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley, said: "Whilst the report has shown there are improvements to be made across England and Wales, we are pleased that HMICFRS has recognised that some forces are demonstrating innovative and effective practice, and that Merseyside is cited in examples throughout the report. I recognise the huge personal impact these crimes have on public safety, which is why we continue to build, improve and prioritise our approach to preventing these crimes and bringing offenders to justice.
“Indeed, the two recommendations made by the inspectorate relate to good investigative practice where Merseyside is already leading the way. Our approach to crime-scene management means a crime scene investigator will contact victims directly to ensure the preservation of forensic evidence to assist us maximising potential for its recovery, and having a dedicated burglary team – Operation Castle, means the investigation of residential burglaries is conducted and supervised by experienced detectives.
“The report is not limited to the investigation of these crimes; it also includes prevention and deterrence. HMICFRS rightly acknowledges that crime prevention is not the sole responsibility of the police, and it is best achieved by working in partnership with other agencies. I am pleased to see that our approach has been highlighted in the report, recognising how offender management in Merseyside is centrally managed to facilitate rapid information sharing.
“This approach means partners can understand the needs of offenders, such as drug misuse support, and help them on a pathway out of reoffending when they leave prison. We are actively building a culture of prevention in the force, so it becomes ingrained in the way we tackle all crime – this is something that Chief Constable Serena Kennedy made a priority when she started in post just over a year ago.”
Detective Inspector Tony O’Brien from Operation Castle said: “It is pleasing to see the work of the Operation Castle team has been recognised in the report, which mentions a keyless car theft case from 2021 as an example of good practice. It was a complex case where detectives from the team worked closely with Lancashire and Cheshire police and resulted in the sentencing of five people for more than 23 years in total. The relevant organised crime group is thought to have been responsible for 162 theft and burglary offences.
“We recognise that there is still work to be done around increasing charge rates for serious acquisitive crime, and when it comes to residential burglary, we are tackling it head on with innovation. Our new Public CCTV Submission Portal enables members of the public to upload video footage from their home security cameras or smart doorbells that shows suspicious activity. Since the new portal was announced on Tuesday, 12 July, we have received over 90 video clips, and we have now had our first convictions as a direct result of footage being submitted.
“I would like to thank all the members of the public that have so far submitted video footage via the portal. Please, continue to use it. During the last four years, since Operation Castle was established, the team has already been successful in reducing burglary by 59%, with burglary offenders serving sentences totalling more than 600 years. Keep sending your video footage to us so we can assess its evidential value – it may provide a vital piece of evidence that helps us put a burglar before the courts.”