Last Saturday’s headline in The Times “Police admit one in three crimes not investigated – Forces give up on burglars and car thieves” got me thinking. I don’t disagree that the Police find that screening out a large number of registered crimes allows them to focus more resources where they have greater chance of success. The scale of it though is suprising – a third. And I do wonder how much that initial investigation threshold varies across the country, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, force by force. I suspect that right now this is a subjective and highly localised decision. If we had that data – which crimes, down to street level, were investigated or not – UKCrimeStats could keep tabs on it. The question I’d like to pose here though is – should victims of crime be told if their crime was not going to be investigated?
I don’t see why not. In many cases it could create additional incentives for potential victims to – where possible – take preventative action and to proffer more actionable information after the offence was committted. It would also increase pressure on Officers and more importantly, Politicians, to see through bureaucracy and efficiency gains that would release more resource to follow up investigations. Investigation rates and for which types of crime would signal clearly the current distribution of Police resources across the country relative to the crime.
Then we start running into the issue of what constitutes a proper level of investigation?
Here again, there must be a massive difference between investigating a series of bicycle thefts and a murder enquiry. And victims and investigating Police Officers are bound to disagree.
That leaves us with clear-up data. Many thanks to Witness Confident for sharing this information with me. For an offence to be technically cleared up according to Home Office rules, the following has to happen;
i) a suspect needs to have been identified to the police
ii) the police need to have told the suspect that they hold him or her responsible
iii) the police need to impose a sanction on the suspect
Again, all of this we could keep tabs on were the data to be released. Crime data has 3 core components – about the crime, the victim and the criminal. To date, all we have been privy to is very limited data about the crime. Releasing data about whether it was investigated or not and the progress through the 3 different stages of the clear-up would be a huge advance.