Police response to burglary, robbery and theft must improve

Photo credit: HMICFRS.

The police response to burglary, robbery and theft is not consistently good enough – and victims face a postcode lottery when it comes to how thoroughly officers might investigate crimes, the police inspectorate has warned.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has called for forces to go back to basics to ensure they are conducting investigations effectively.

Inspectors found that:

  • 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;
  • police are not doing all they can to help victims when they report crimes – in 71 percent of the burglary reports examined, police personnel did not give victims any advice on crime-scene preservation during the initial call;
  • forces lack investigative capacity and capability to effectively tackle burglary, robbery and theft, often because of the national detective shortage and inexperience; and
  • investigations are not being appropriately or thoroughly supervised, with a third of cases examined having insufficient evidence of proper supervision.

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.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke said, “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.

“We’ve made two recommendations for police forces to go back to basics by improving crime scene management and ensuring proper supervision so that investigations are conducted effectively.”

The report can be found here.