Crime victims are increasingly being told by some police forces to carry out their own investigations by speaking to neighbours, checking for CCTV images and seeing if their stolen property has been put up for sale on second hand websites, the official police watchdog has warned.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary [HMIC] says that for some high-volume types of offences, such as car crime, criminal damage and non-residential burglaries, this "DIY" approach to tackling crime is an "emerging trend" among some forces. They warn that in areas where the police have given up investigating these offences, they are "on the verge of being decriminalised".
The HMIC's report on the use of police time says that in too many cases once the victim had been asked to carry out their own investigation by police call handlers, the crime report was filed away without any further contact with the victim. The police have been given powers and resources to investigate crime by the public, and there should be no expectation on the part of the police that an inversion of that responsibility is acceptable.
Inspector of Constabulary, Roger Baker, who led the inspection, said: "It's more a mindset that we no longer deal with these things. 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.'"
He 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 that 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."
Of course the police will just point the finger at the Government and say that austerity is the root of
their problems, and continue to bury their heads in the sand.