A victim support group says it is totally unacceptable for people who have suffered at the hands of criminals to have to investigate themselves because of a lack of action by Hampshire Police.
Inspectors have criticised the force after finding little evidence of meaningful investigation into some common crimes.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary carried out a national investigation into all 43 police forces in this country. It found that policing was a postcode lottery – with variations across the country.
Inspectors looked at crime prevention, how crime is investigated and how offenders are brought to justice, and time-effective policing.
In a letter to Hampshire police Zoe Billingham, from HMIC, said: ‘In certain cases, for crimes such as burglary dwellings, there was clear evidence of investigation and supervision.
‘However, for other offences (many of which were not attended) some cases were found to have little evidence of meaningful investigation or supervision.’
Hampshire police was also criticised as it does not record whether or not officers attend crimes in the selected categories.
Steve Mote, from the charity Victim Support, said it was totally unacceptable that victims have to investigate crimes.
In a statement he said: ‘As a charity that has supported millions of crime victims, we know how important it is that they get the help they need from the police.
‘It is critical they can trust officers to investigate their case thoroughly and keep them informed of progress and the outcome.
‘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 jusice.
‘These are not the standards we should expect from the police and improvements must be made. We will make sure crime victims and witnesses get the support they need and the respect they deserve.’
Victims of crime can contact Victim Support for help on 0845 30 30 900 or visit victimsupport.org.uk
HM Inspector of Constabulary Roger Baker, who led the inationwide nspection, warned that high-volume offences, such as criminal damage or vehicle crime, are nearly decriminalised.
Mr Baker said: ‘It’s more a mindset, that we no longer deal with these things. And effectively what’s happened is a number of crimes are on the verge of being decriminalised. So it’s not the fault of the individual staff, it’s a mindset thing that’s crept in to policing to say “we’ve almost given up”.’
But the police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes and Hampshire Federation chairman John Apter have both said budget cuts have meant service to the public has decreased in quality.
The inspectors looked at a sample of 100 crimes reported to the police in the following categories: burglary of a private dwelling, burglary of a building other than a dwelling, assault, theft from motor vehicle and criminal damage. The report said there was evidence of investigations into house burglaries, but in some cases nationally call-handlers were encouraging victims to investigate crimes themselves.
Jools Bell, 43, had bikes worth thousands of pounds stolen from a brick shed attached to her home in Wilmott Close, Gosport.
She praised the police who did investigate the theft – but she carried out her own detective work and offered a £100 reward for the return of the bikes
‘A lot of people have started up their own Facebook groups so they can put pictures of their stolen bikes on it,’ she said.
‘That’s what we did on the lost and stolen bikes of Gosport page.
‘I was on Facebook every night – on all the websites.
‘I imagine the police don’t have time for that.’
She added officers kept in touch with updates, increased patrols near her home and came out to the property to investigate.
‘I can’t fault the police at all, they were fantastic,’ she said. ‘That’s because of the price of the bikes – they would have been insured for about £9,000. They came out and kept us up to date. I’ve heard from people in the past if it’s just a regular bike not much happened.’
A 17-year-old boy and a 24-year-old man, both from Gosport, were arrested over the thefts but were released.
In terms of crime prevention, inspectors found that officers in Hampshire use a database to share information and the force has a strong emphasis on crime prevention.
But the force has no means of evaluating problem solving, and not all staff who deal with victims and anti-social behaviour have been given formal crime prevention training.
In the third section of the report, it was found that Hampshire police has a relatively good understanding of demand on officers’ time.
The force was also praised for its use of technology to free up officers’ limited time.
President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde, said: ‘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.’
Hampshire police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes has said government cuts to Hampshire police’s budget has hit the force’s service to the public.
Mr Hayes – who was directly elected by the public to hold chief constable Andy Marsh to account – said he will make sure improvements will be made if necessary.
He said: ‘This is an interesting report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.
‘I have warned for some time that the scale of government-enforced budget cuts of £80m will negatively impact on the quality of policing services and clearly to some extent these findings reflect this.
‘However, despite unprecedented cuts, HMIC still recognises the force as a strong emphasis on preventing crime and re-offending, which is a priority in the strategic direction I have set.
‘The public have been telling me that the service given when they phone in to Hampshire Constabulary was not good enough.
‘I welcome HMIC’s comments that call-handlers now have clear policies and procedures to enable them to identify vulnerable and repeat victims of crime and anti-social behaviour, and a community focus when identifying a risk of repeat and vulnerable callers.
‘I am also pleased at the recognition in the report of the investment being made in mobile technology to free up officers to spend more time on patrol ensuring increased visibility and efficiency.
‘As part of my role holding the Chief Constable to account, I will be seeking assurances that where improvements need to be made, procedures will be put in place.
‘It is essential to remember that we must put victims and witnesses at the heart of everything we do.’
OFFICERS would investigate every crime until there was no stone left unturned if their time was not stretched because of budget cuts.
That is the message from John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers in the force.
He said: ‘It’s a bit rich for the HMIC to be in effect criticising police forces for having to make difficult decisions and prioritise how they deal with crime.
‘What they should be doing is highlighting the devastating effect cuts to the budget are having. The government has got it wrong.
‘I’ve never said the police shouldn’t have its fair share of pain but we’ve gone too far.
‘Rank and file officers don’t go to work to do a bad job. If they had their way they’d go to every crime and investigate.’
He added that the police are juggling many tasks and are forced to prioritise, and that he himself has asked victims of crime if they have CCTV in their homes to help investigations.
‘For certain crimes that should always be explored,’ he added. But he said that was not appropriate for crimes such as burglary and sexual offences.
‘We’re having to adapt to a shrinking budget, we’ll have almost a thousand fewer officers in a couple of years,’ he said.
‘The public are being short-changed. You can’t have a Rolls-Royce service when you haven’t the budget. That’s the reality.’