Police in England and Wales are “screening out” almost one million crimes a year without fully investigating them, an investigation has revealed.
Channel 4′s Dispatches programme has uncovered that more than a quarter of crimes reported to police are dropped with “little or no investigation” by officers.
The data, obtained through Freedom of Investigation requests to 25 police forces, also showed that this figure is much higher in some areas of the country.
Bedfordshire and Greater Manchester Police reportedly failed to investigate 40% of crimes, while West Yorkshire Police was found to be screening out almost half of reported offences (46.5%).
Meanwhile, it was revealed that the force had set an “optimum” screen-out rate of 56% of crimes – the equivalent of approximately 145,000 offences a year. West Yorkshire Police is thought to be the first force to impose such a target.
So what exactly are officers no longer investigating?
Based on data provided by 21 police forces, the BBC programme found that while 438,000 burglaries were reported in England and Wales in 2017, 36% of these offences were screened out by officers.
Meanwhile, 16% of reports of aggravated burglary – where the intruder is armed – were dropped at an early stage of investigation by West Yorkshire Police.
On average, almost 60% of vehicle offences – which include the theft of cars and items from inside them – were screened out by police officers at 21 forces.
This figure jumped by a third when looking at West Yorkshire Police alone, with officers failing to investigate 81% of vehicle offences beyond the preliminary stages. Meanwhile, 72% of this kind of crime was screened out by police in Wiltshire.
Freedom of Information responses from 23 forces questioned in the investigation showed that, on average, 1 in 10 violent offences were being screened out by police.
However, more than a quarter (26%) of violence with injury cases were dropped by Warwickshire Police.
Finally, the investigation found that 3% of sex offences were being screened out by officers without a full investigation.
The analysis comes just two months after police officers in Lincolnshire were accused of failing victims of violent crime, rape and domestic abuse for failing to record almost one in five crimes reported to the force.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said the government expects police “to take all reports of crime seriously, to investigate and to bring the offenders to court so they can receive appropriate punishment”.
“The government remains alert to changes in trends and new methods used by criminals and we will continue to work with the police, industry and others to consider the evidence and what more can be done to prevent these crimes taking place,” they continued.
“The deployment of resources is a matter for Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners.”
Meanwhile, West Yorkshire Police denied setting a target for the number of crimes to drop, calling it an “optimum ‘screen out’ rate…of crime” based on a “…risk assessment model, proportionality & solvability factors”.
A spokesperson for the force told Dispatches that “all crime gets a primary investigation either by a police officer attending in person, or over the telephone”.
Dispatches’ “Lawless Britain: Where are the Police?” will be screened on Channel 4 at 8pm on Monday.