No suspect identified in 86 per cent of Bedfordshire household burglaries

PUBLISHED: 10:02 08 September 2018

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Bedfordshire Police close investigations without identifying a suspect in almost nine out of 10 household burglaries and seven in 10 reported vehicle thefts, new analysis shows.

They also ended more than half of shoplifting cases with the same outcome.

Across the three offences, around 6,000 investigations in Bedfordshire were shut with no suspected culprit in the frame, the Press Association found.

The revelations prompted warnings that victims could be put off reporting offences, while criminals are given a “green light to reoffend”.

Police chiefs say increased demand and reduced officer numbers mean they have to prioritise cases where there is a realistic chance of prosecution.

The figures were extracted from Home Office crime outcomes data, and cover the 12 months to March 2018.

They show that out of the 3,701 household burglary cases opened over that period by Bedfordshire Police, 86 per cent were categorised as “investigation complete - no suspect identified”.

This is used when a reported crime has been investigated “as far as reasonably possible” and the case is closed pending further investigative opportunities.

Of the total burglary cases, Bedfordshire Police brought 108 people to court.

Responding to the figures, Bedfordshire assistant chief constable Jackie Sebire said: “While our detection rate is lower than we would like, it is worth noting that we did solve 279 offences in the 12 months to April 2018.

“We are also working hard to identify and manage those prolific offenders who cause us the most harm, with a focus on prevention.

“However, it is important to look at our ability to investigate burglary in the wider context of pressures we face in Bedfordshire. We are funded as a rural force, yet face complex challenges usually seen in large metropolitan areas – so have limited resources and are currently facing unprecedented demand.”

She added: “We received 612 calls for service on one day earlier this summer – which was 50 per cent more than we took on New Year’s Eve which is traditionally the busiest day of the year. We are also experiencing increases in other offences such as knife crime, which has risen nationally.

“Responding to that demand puts an incredible strain on our ability to investigate crime. The stark reality is that we have to make difficult decisions every day regarding which incidents we can respond to and which cases we dedicate resources to investigate. Every incident is assessed on the threat harm and risk it poses in order that we keep people safe.

“In simple terms, if we had more resources to deal with the demand we are facing we would be better placed to do more to tackle burglary.”

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs committee, said: “Too many investigations are closing without suspects being identified and we are hearing increasing reports of the police being too overstretched to investigate.

“Police forces are under immense pressure with rising serious and violent crime and changing patterns of crime alongside cuts in the numbers of officers and PCSOs.

“These figures suggest that investigations into volume crimes are now being hit. Failing to identify suspects gives criminals a green light to reoffend.”

The country’s larger police forces tended to have higher percentages of cases closed without a suspect being identified.

Alex Mayes, of charity Victim Support, said: “News like this could undermine confidence in the criminal justice system and prevent people reporting in the future.”

Of the 1,057 vehicle thefts recorded in Bedfordshire, 69 per cent ended up with no suspect being identified, while in the 3,849 shoplifting cases, 2,025 of them were closed with the same outcome.

The police charged 43 suspects with car theft, and 743 for shoplifting.

RAC Insurance spokesman Simon Williams said motorists will be “shocked” by the findings.

“This is a sign that thieves have found ways around car security systems and have ways of selling vehicles on with little or no fear of being caught,” he said.

Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for acquisitive crime, said increased demand and fewer officer numbers have led to forces prioritising cases with a realistic prospect of prosecution.

She added: “Police investigate all cases of theft, burglary and shoplifting. Particularly for these types of offences, police focus on targeting prolific offenders, organised crime networks, and ensuring prevention measures by homeowners and businesses are in place.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We expect the police to take all reports of crime seriously, to investigate and to bring the offenders to court so that they can receive appropriate punishment.

“However, we recognise that crime is changing and police demand is becoming increasingly complex. That is why we have provided a strong and comprehensive £13 billion funding settlement to ensure the police have the resources they need to carry out their vital work.”

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