We all know of, or indeed have ourselves been, victims of acquisitive crime. Your child's bike disappears from outside their school, your grandparent's valuables are stolen from their house, your friend's phone is grabbed at a bus stop. Victims repeatedly tell me that too often in spite of witnesses, noted down number plates, trackable phones or CCTV of the crime, no investigation using this evidence seems to take place.
The police claim they investigate all crimes but that only a "number... will require secondary investigation." What this means in layman's terms is that all crimes undergo an initial 'assessment' to establish whether the crime is "detectable" and therefore worthy of actual investigation, by looking at CCTV and gathering other evidence. Too often the police decide not to carry out this second investigation. They claim this is because the crime was not "detectable". Yet how can they be so sure without looking at the available evidence to actually 'detect' it.
The figures are worrying. The police respond to homicide and rape cases well and none of these cases were screened-out, which of course should always be the case. However, acquisitive crime is barely a priority at all. In London 40% of house burglaries, 23% of robberies, 81% of bike thefts and 76% of car thefts were not investigated last year. This is in London, where the Metropolitan Police state that 40% of all crimes were screened-out. But in the rest of the country over half - 55%- of crimes are not properly investigated - which is even more alarming. If you are a thief or a burglar, you can rest assured that most of your crimes will be ignored by police!
CCTV is everywhere. In 2007 it was claimed that the UK had 1% of the world's population but 20% of its CCTV cameras. We are told it is for our safety. Yet, apart from during the summer riots of 2011 - where it was used to catch many thieves and burglars - CCTV is rarely used.
Acquisitive crime is a serious offence. Breaking into someone's home or stealing something with sentimental value can have a long lasting and devastating impact on the victim's confidence and wellbeing. Stealing something valuable from a person or small business can also seriously impact someone's finances. Also, many criminals' activities escalate each time they get away with it.
Victims of crime should be allowed the right to appeal to an independent body - such as the new local safer neighbourhood boards being introduced in London - if the police decide not to investigate their crime. Clear standards should be set so that we know why investigations are dropped.
We need a dramatic shift in the way police see these crimes. Acquisitive crime may not be sexy, but it is serious.
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