Police chiefs in Britain have admitted that they are screening out what they describe as high-volume, “low harm” crimes such as shoplifting, pickpocketing and other thefts, a report has revealed.
Tens of thousands of thieves are left to wander free across different parts of Britain except there is CCTV, witnesses, forensics or stolen property worth at least £50, the UK Telegraph reports.
According to Home Office data, only one in 500 thefts (0.2 per cent) resulted in a charge in Suffolk, the lowest rate, followed by 0.3 per cent in Gloucestershire and City of London and 0.6 per cent in Warwickshire for the year 2018-2019.
This challenge has also affected two of the biggest police forces in Britain, with the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police getting only 0.9 per cent of criminal suspects charged, which is fewer than one in 100 thefts in the respective areas.
The disclosure comes as the UK newspaper has revealed that a private security service is mounting the UK’s first private prosecutions for theft and other “minor” crimes.
The private firm, My Local Bobby, which was set up by former senior Met police officers, claimed that it has begun the private prosecutions because the police have “given up” taking suspects to court.
The firm provides neighbourhood beat bobbies for residents, firms and shops and recently set up a new prosecution unit after its teams apprehended shoplifters, pickpockets and drug dealers, only to be told by police to release them without investigating or charging them.
Professor Marian Fitzgerald, a criminologist and visiting professor at Kent University, warned that the failure by police to investigate and prosecute such “low harm” crimes was emboldening criminals.
“These people know police are not going to do anything about it and are getting bolder. The risk is that either people buy in security firms if they can afford it or take the law into their own hands. It’s a recipe for disaster,” she said.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said the loss of more than 20,000 police officers in Britain since 2010 meant there had been a fall in cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
It also confirmed that the fall in number the number of detectives has led a lower number of people being charged – a trend it aimed to reverse with the extra 20,000 officers pledged by the Boris Johnson-led Conservative government.
“Forces will prioritise cases where there is a realistic prospect of prosecution and in some cases police can, and do, use alternative outcomes like cautions or restorative justice,” said an NPCC spokesman.
“We also ensure that victims who may be particularly vulnerable, such as the isolated elderly, get the support they need.”
Speaking on the development, a Home Office spokesman said: “We expect the police to take all crimes seriously. It is the responsibility of Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners to make sure criminal cases are investigated properly and set priorities which reflect the concerns of the people they serve.”