A police pledge to attend all home burglaries has prompted warnings that it could pile pressure on officers and risks becoming another “box-ticking exercise” unless “proper resources” are provided.
Police chiefs in England and Wales have promised forces will attend all residential thefts in a new set of standards they hope will result in more crimes being solved and more criminals prosecuted.
But some have questioned how the plan will work, warning that without proper resources it could put additional pressure on already stretched officers.
Today police chiefs have announced a commitment that all home burglaries in England and Wales will be attended by the police.
— National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) (@PoliceChiefs) October 5, 2022
Ken Marsh, chairman of staff association the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the plan is “fundamentally a good idea” but called for clarity on how it will be resourced.
He told the PA news agency: “It’s a horrendous crime that leaves horrible effects on people and they should feel that it’s been treated correctly.
“It will put pressure on my colleagues because we’ve not yet seen how this is going to be played out in terms of the requirement and how many and how we go about it, but we’re not opposed to it all.”
Officers need the “correct equipment”, like tablets and mobiles, which would make it “far easier” to complete a crime report while attending the scene, he said as he issued a plea for forces to “modernise” to make police work more efficient, adding that there is still “far too much bureaucracy and paperwork that just isn’t necessary”.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “It is devastating for victims that the overwhelming majority of burglaries go unsolved.
“While this is a positive step, without proper resources from the Government this pledge risks being nothing more than a box-ticking exercise.”
Steve Hartshorn, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the decision “will help to reinforce public trust”, but warned: “With one in seven forces put into special measures, short-term funding, increasing demands and low officer numbers per head of the population, it continues to be a ‘do more with less’ situation for police officers in England and Wales.”
“It is time that we find out exactly what people want and expect from their police service, rather than successive governments second-guessing,” he added.
Chief constables will work to get the plan introduced “as soon as practically possible”, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said.
While some forces already have a policy in place to go to all home burglaries, others attend only where victims are vulnerable or elderly, or there are evidential lines of inquiry to be followed up.
Under the latest plan, forces will prioritise attendance where people’s homes have been burgled, rather than outbuildings and garden sheds.
NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said: “Wherever you live in England and Wales you can be confident the police will attend if you experience the invasion of a home burglary. This should see more burglaries solved and more offenders prosecuted.”
It is hoped that the national recruitment drive to replace the 20,000 officers axed during previous austerity measures will cover some of the extra staffing required to attend every burglary.
Police leaders are also pushing the Government to boost health and social care provision so that officers have to deal with fewer non-crime related calls.
Mr Hewitt added in a blog published on Wednesday: “A National Audit Office report in 2018 showed that 64 per cent of emergency calls to the police were not about crime.
“Some are entirely legitimate police activity, but a substantial proportion see police stepping in to health and social work because of an absence of other services.
“We have been discussing this for years and there has been no meaningful change – there needs to be for us to improve crime rates.”
He also called for changes to crime recording processes to make them less time-consuming.
The national decision comes after new Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said last week that officers will go to every reported burglary in London because the crime is “too serious an intrusion” for officers not to attend.
But the changes in policy are unlikely to be replicated in Scotland, where police respond based on the level of threat, risk and harm posed.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), however, said: “We investigate every burglary that is reported to us.”
Out of 148,764 residential burglaries recorded by police forces in England and Wales in 2021/22, just 3.5% (5,236) resulted in a charge or summons. Almost 72% of the investigations were closed with no suspect identified (106,632).
The latest number of reported burglaries is lower than in previous years, probably down to periods of lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic when fewer crimes were committed.
A review by the College of Policing, which is responsible for setting policing standards, found that officers swiftly attending crime scenes can boost victim satisfaction and aid investigations as well as help prevent more offences, the NPCC said.
Public opinion and a report from police watchdog His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services’ (HMICFRS) on acquisitive crime were also taken into account before the decision was reached.
In her Conservative Party conference speech on Tuesday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman praised forces which are already promising to visit the scene of every burglary, telling delegates in Birmingham the “law-abiding majority expect every force to investigate every neighbourhood crime – and so do I”.
In a statement after the announcement she said she “wholeheartedly” welcomed the commitment, adding that getting back to common sense policing will “increase the public’s confidence in their local force” and send a clear message to criminals “that this is a high-risk crime which they won’t be getting away with”.