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No ‘odd ball’ rationing of coppers attending burglaries here, vows police commissioner

No ‘odd ball’ rationing of coppers attending burglaries here, vows police commissioner

🕔07.Aug 2015

A controversial experiment by Leicestershire police to ignore burglaries at odd numbered houses must not be copied in the West Midlands, police commissioner David Jamieson has warned.

The three-month pilot study by the Leicestershire force meant that officers only attended to collect evidence from break-ins at even number houses in an attempt to save money.

The results are being evaluated and the system could be rolled out across the East Midlands.

Mr Jamieson described the experiment as “an odd ball policy” and added:

The people of the West Midlands can rest assured that I would never want that to be considered in our region.

When police visit burgled properties they often give important crime prevention advice and support. Odd numbered homes need that just as much as even numbered homes.

While Mr Jamieson can urge that his force does not sign up for such an arbitrary cost-cutting approach to investigating crime, he does not have the power to insist. Decisions about how best to investigate crimes are deemed operational matters and are under the jurisdiction of the chief constable rather than the police and crime commissioner.

With West Midlands chief constable Chris Sims on course to take early retirement, his successor will have to decide how the force should react to crime with sharply reduced funding and staffing levels.

The Leicestershire experiment highlighted a lively debate in the policing world about making the most of scarce resources. National Police Chiefs Council chair Sarah Thornton, a former Thames Valley chief constable, provoked widespread criticism when she said burglary victims should no longer expect the police to come to their homes and that forces needed to shift their focus away from “traditional’ crimes”.

Metropolitan Police chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe responded by criticising Ms Thornton and Leicestershire Police. He said burglaries were serious and it was important police investigated them properly.

If somebody comes into your home, then I think you should reasonably expect the police to come and investigate it.

Leicestershire police commissioner Sir Clive Loader knew nothing of his force’s even number burglary policy until the matter reached the national media. When he found out what had happened he told the BBC he should have been informed and would have advised against it.

Sir Clive commented that refusing to attend burglaries at odd numbered houses was hardly likely to inspire public confidence in policing.

Leicestershire Police said the pilot scheme had no adverse effect on public satisfaction or crime rates.

Deputy chief constable Roger Bannister said:

This pilot suggests that we may need to reconsider how best to deploy crime scene investigators, especially if we are currently sending them automatically to scenes where, despite their professionalism and expertise, there is no evidence for them to retrieve.

Mr Jamieson warned that West Midlands Police’s continuing financial problems inevitably meant “difficult choices” would have to be made about which crimes the force would prioritise.

The West Midlands Police budget has been cut by almost a quarter since 2010 as a result of the Government’s austerity approach to public spending.

The force has to make savings of about £130 million by 2020 and will need to operate with a reduction of more than 2,500 officer and staff posts on top of more than 2,000 jobs already lost.

Private sector partners Accenture have been hired to lead a major change programme running up to 2020 and is overseeing 33 separate projects to provide a new operating model for the force.

Chief constable Chris Sims said the change programme would also “be looking at improving the deployment of officers and speeding up investigations by overhauling and updating the technology they have access to”.

Mr Sims added: “This is all geared up to us continuing to provide a first class service to our communities from 2020 and beyond.”

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