UPDATE: Dorset's PCC hits out at critical watchdog report

Crime victims asked to turn DIY detectives by police, watchdog says

PCC Martyn Underhill

First published in News
Last updated

DORSET’S Police and Crime Commissioner has hit out at a new report which criticises the force.

Martyn Underhill says officers can not be expected to attend ‘one hundred percent of crimes’ after Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said high-volume crimes are ‘on the verge of being decriminalised’ by forces which have given up investigating them.

The report reveals anomalies in how different forces across England and Wales respond to the same type of crime or incident, depending on where the victim lives.

It also looks into crime prevention, knowing where suspects are and use of police time.

While Dorset's inspection was generally positive, inspectors did find the force's call-handling centre failed to consistently identify vulnerable and repeat victims.

Inspectors also found that while Dorset Police does not have an 'overarching' crime prevention strategy, there was clear evidence of the force preventing crime and anti-social behaviour through a range of operations.

Long-term crime prevention schemes including burglary and car crime have been successful in reducing reported incidents, the report states.

Mr Underhill said: ““I acknowledge the HMIC ‘Core Business’ investigation into crime prevention, police attendance and the use of police time. The report makes suggestions for areas of improvement as well as identifying good practice in Dorset. I’d like to focus on three key points.

“Dorset Police is one of the lowest funded Forces in England and Wales, and has had to make twenty per cent savings over the last five years. This places a huge strain on an already shrinking workforce.

“We cannot expect officers to attend 100 percent of crime and let me explain a few reasons why.

“If a homeowner reports a garden ornament stolen over a three week period whilst they have been on holiday and they have already asked their neighbours and no one had seen anything, why would you send an officer?

“Remember, some victims do not want police to attend their house or workplace. The crime they are reporting may be sensitive, delicate, or both. Many people reporting a crime specifically ask to do it on the phone. I refuse to be pressured into striving to achieve 100% attendance by the Inspectorate. The key issue for me is how the crime is investigated, not how many cars drive to a scene.”

He said the force is introducing body cams and mobile data in an effort to free up police time.

But, he added: “As Hugh Orde (President of ACPO) touched on earlier today, it is difficult to adopt a consistent approach nationally when you have Police and Crime Plans driven by different PCCs and localism agendas. A crime in a rural Dorset community may differ to a similar crime in Cumbria, due to unique demographics and features. The response from both Forces will inevitably vary considerably. Policing will never be one size fits all.”

Elsewhere, the inspection found some forces were losing track of named suspects and wanted persons because they did not have effective systems for actively pursuing them.

This included suspects who had been bailed from a police station and failed to return.

The report said: ''It is a matter of extreme concern that some forces were not able to provide the data requested on these points. Timely and effective pursuit of named and wanted suspects should be core business for the police.

''Inspectors were also particularly concerned by the number of ''desk-based investigations'', where forces decide to deal with a crime over the telephone without any attendance at the scene, without face-to-face contact with the victim.''

Desk-based investigations are failing to serve the public and mean ''little or nothing more than recording a crime without taking further action'', HMIC warned.

A total of 37 out of 43 forces in England and Wales used a system in which a call-handler assessed whether an officer should attend the scene of an incident.

But in some forces, call-handlers could not accurately describe what amounted to a risk or threat, while 17 forces failed to identify vulnerable callers.

Attendance rates at crime scenes in the year to November 30 2013 varied widely between forces from 39 percent in Warwickshire to 100 percent in Cleveland.

This means that nearly two-thirds of crime scenes in Warwickshire were not attended by a police officer.

And in 17 forces, the Inspectorate found police community support officers (PCSOs) were being asked to investigate crimes beyond their role profile and training.

HMIC also found the national picture across all forces in relation to use of technology was ''inadequate'' with officers using ''old technology, ill-suited to modern technology''.

Official figures released earlier this year suggested police are failing to solve half of crimes, including nearly three quarters of cases of theft, criminal damage and arson.

Data from 28 police forces in England and Wales, excluding the Metropolitan Police, showed that in April and May this year 52% of crimes were classed as ''investigation complete, no suspect identified'', meaning that the case is closed unless new evidence comes to light.

This happened in 73% of criminal damage and arson cases, 72% of theft and 56% of robbery, according to figures released by the Home Office, which stressed that the investigations could be reopened later.

Mr Baker added: ''When a crime has been committed, it's the job of the police service to go and find out who's done it and bring them to justice.

''They're the cops and we expect the cops to catch people and my proposition to you is unless you've got the powers of Mystic Meg or something like that, you not turning up and using your skills, it's going to be mightily difficult to bring people to justice.''

President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), Sir Hugh Orde said: ''We accept that the public has a natural expectation to have a positive and supportive experience of interacting with the police service when they have been a victim of crime.

''The reality of austerity in policing means that forces must ensure that their officers' time is put to best use and this means prioritising calls.

''In some instances, this may mean that a report of a crime where the victim is not in imminent danger or the offender is not still in the immediate vicinity will be dealt with over the phone or by other means than the deployment of an officer to the scene. This is not an abdication of forces' duty of care to victims.''

'It is totally unacceptable for victims to have to investigate their own case as it could put them at risk of further harm and they may miss vital evidence which could allow offenders to evade justice.

''We know from supporting children and young people, victims of domestic and sexual violence and those with mental health problems how devastating it can be for their well-being and sense of security. They are also some of the people most likely to suffer repeated crimes.

''These are not the standards we should expect from the police and improvements must be made.''

Comments (5)

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3:39pm Thu 4 Sep 14

mr commonsense says...

One of the ways of increasing funding for Dorset is to get rid of the stupid appointment of DPCC and his staff and put the money into front line services.
One of the ways of increasing funding for Dorset is to get rid of the stupid appointment of DPCC and his staff and put the money into front line services. mr commonsense
  • Score: 6

6:21pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Chick1 says...

Use the thousands earned from speeding offences in Dorset to help fund the police as these speed vans and officers do not seem to be in short supply
Use the thousands earned from speeding offences in Dorset to help fund the police as these speed vans and officers do not seem to be in short supply Chick1
  • Score: 14

6:34pm Thu 4 Sep 14

dogloverdorset says...

mr commonsense wrote:
One of the ways of increasing funding for Dorset is to get rid of the stupid appointment of DPCC and his staff and put the money into front line services.
The money spent on the OPCC was previously spent on the Police Authority - yet the PCC is far more public facing and actually listens and acts on complaints from the public, would rather have a PCC than a bunch of faceless Councillors who failed to do anything other than commit the council tax payers to useless PFI projects
[quote][p][bold]mr commonsense[/bold] wrote: One of the ways of increasing funding for Dorset is to get rid of the stupid appointment of DPCC and his staff and put the money into front line services.[/p][/quote]The money spent on the OPCC was previously spent on the Police Authority - yet the PCC is far more public facing and actually listens and acts on complaints from the public, would rather have a PCC than a bunch of faceless Councillors who failed to do anything other than commit the council tax payers to useless PFI projects dogloverdorset
  • Score: 0

7:08pm Thu 4 Sep 14

CoogarUK.com says...

Well he would, wouldn't he?
Well he would, wouldn't he? CoogarUK.com
  • Score: 2

10:40pm Thu 4 Sep 14

portland.bill says...

So what they are saying is find the yobs / petty thieves / and vandals yourself , Thats fine as long as we can dish out our own punishment ,
So what they are saying is find the yobs / petty thieves / and vandals yourself , Thats fine as long as we can dish out our own punishment , portland.bill
  • Score: 3
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