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England and Wales police failing burglary victims, inspectorate finds

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

Thu 11 Aug 2022 00.00 BST


Inspectors say austerity cuts meant inexperienced officers were left to deal with burglaries

The chief inspector of constabulary and chief fire and rescue inspector, Andy Cooke. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

Thu 11 Aug 2022 00.00 BST


Police are failing victims of burglary and theft, missing chances to catch thieves leading to lack of confidence in forces, the official inspectorate has found.

Errors were found in seven out of 10 cases examined, with victims suffering a postcode lottery in how police treated their robbery, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said.

Austerity was a factor, leaving inexperienced officers to deal with burglaries, with a dire shortage of trained detectives meaning they had to focus on more serious crimes. Just 6.6% of robberies and 4% of thefts led to a charge.

Andy Cooke, the chief inspector of constabulary, said while the years of Tory cuts had a damaging effect, forces were failing to use the resources they already had and needed to return to basics.

Evidence from video doorbells capturing suspects was missed because police lacked digital forensic capacity, and seven out of 10 callers were not getting crime prevention advice, andsometimes not getting advice on preserving forensics in case officers wish to investigate.

Cooke said he expected – but could not order – that every victim whose home is burgled should be visited by police.


“It’s not rocket science,” said Cooke, launching another series of warnings to forces about the need to tackle burglary and thefts. Parts of the report have an exasperated tone, and the report itself is entitled: Finding Time for Crime.

The inspectorate said there were failings to assess victim vulnerability in four out of 10 cases it examined, such as whether someone is elderly and especially at risk, with “failures to get the basics of investigation and prevention right” happening too often, said Cooke.

The chief inspector added: “With the resources policing currently use to investigate these offences … consistently they are not doing the right thing on the majority of occasions. With the resources they have they are making basic errors.”

The government is promising 20,000 officers to replace those lost during Conservative cuts. About 68% have been recruited, but they will take time to learn their jobs. Cooke said austerity explained but did not excuse the errors. “So that demand, that inexperience, together with the pressures put on policing throughout that period of austerity have undoubtedly impacted on us,” he added.

The Conservatives are worried their law and order record may cost them at the general election, with voters unconvinced they have the right policies. Police are facing twin crises of legitimacy and also how much they are to blame for plunging crime clear-up rates.

The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said: “The Conservatives have spent 12 years running down our police, leading to overstretched and inexperienced officers, victims let down and criminals let off.

“While the leadership candidates compete over headlines and gimmicks, Labour has a plan to restore neighbourhood policing to put officers back on the beat and to help restore public faith in the police.”

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