What’s the point of a police force that doesn’t turn up to burglaries?

What’s the point of a police force that doesn’t turn up to burglaries?

 

Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, says that public expectations have to change in the light of budget cuts

Burglary is one of life’s more appalling experiences. Having thieves break into your house and rifle through your most precious belongings is at best unnerving, at worst traumatic.

For years, the police have given the impression that they do not regard burglaries as a particularly grave crime. More than three-quarters of such offences are never solved, probably because they are not taken very seriously.

But until now we have at least had the reassurance of knowing that if your house is burgled, a young police officer will sooner or later call around, make copious notes and utter sympathetic noises over a cup of tea before disappearing over the horizon.

Don’t rely on even this meagre service. One of the country’s most senior police officers has conceded in an interview with the BBC that victims of burglaries can no longer depend on a home visit by a police officer. Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, says that public expectations have to change in the light of budget cuts suffered by the force.

For good measure, Mrs Thornton (who is said to be David Cameron’s favourite police officer) also gave a green light to cannabis growers by admitting that forces have given up investigating small-scale cannabis farms — echoing the recent remarks of Ron Hogg, Durham’s police and crime commissioner.

This is not the first time since she took up her £252,000-a-year post four months ago that she has warned about the allegedly calamitous effects of government cuts — which she grossly exaggerates. (The truth is that resources have merely been reduced from the profligate years when the New Labour government threw huge amounts of extra money at the country’s police forces.) A week ago, Mrs Thornton suggested that the traditional police beat may have to be replaced with targeted patrols.

Sara Thornton: The impact of police cuts and changing crime

The traditional police beat! I haven’t seen a bobby walking down a street near my home in this century, though it is true patrol cars sometimes race up and down the closest main road with lights flashing and sirens blaring. Mrs Thornton is threatening to take away something we lost long ago.

What does she intend to gain by warning us that burglaries may no longer be properly investigated? I suspect she may hope to win public support in the police’s wrangles with the Government over budget cuts. If so, she is deluded.

Most people will say that a police force that does not devote time to investigating burglaries is not a police force at all. And they will doubt — or at any rate they should doubt — the contention that the boys in blue have been so starved of funds that they can no longer come around to your house after thieves have helped themselves to your possessions.

Since 2010, police chiefs and representatives have been warning us that crime would soar as the result of cuts. In fact, the number of most recorded crimes (including burglary and car theft) has fallen, though probably no thanks to the police. Sociologists can’t agree about the causes, but rising employment must have something to do with it.

I might be more prepared to accept police sob stories if there weren’t so many examples of apparently abundant resources. Pass a small vehicle accident and you are likely to see three or four patrol cars. There is no shortage of bobbies if it comes to nabbing drivers for speeding.

When police dramatically raided Cliff Richard’s Berkshire home in his absence a year ago during an investigation into historic sex abuse, eight detectives and five cars rolled up with a BBC helicopter in attendance as though to arrest a dangerous felon. This kind of idiotic overkill is common in high-profile cases.

Cuts didn’t stop Scotland Yard from assembling dozens of detectives at an estimated cost of £20 million as part of Operation Elveden, which investigated payments allegedly made by journalists to public officials. Despite the huge expense and manpower, there have only been a handful of convictions.

Comments: Mrs Thornton (who is said to be David Cameron’s favourite police officer) also gave a green light to cannabis growers – echoing the recent remarks of Ron Hogg, Durham’s police and crime commissioner

Of course, tighter budgets will cause some strains, but there is bound to be room for greater efficiencies, not least by reducing the vast amount of unnecessary paperwork junior officers are still obliged to complete.

Instead of whingeing about the effect of cuts, senior officers should get on with the business of solving crimes that matter to ordinary people, of which burglary is high on the list. That must entail visiting the scene of the crime.

A sympathetic police officer does not merely offer a degree of comfort to the victim. There may be valuable evidence to collect. The thief who not long ago burgled an acquaintance of mine was convicted because he had left a fingerprint. Needless to say, he was still let off with a suspended sentence.

The truth is that many modern police chiefs such as Sara Thornton are often strangely removed from those they are supposed to serve. It is as though they are part of some detached sect whose primary loyalty is to its own doctrines, which are too often gleaned from sociology or criminology courses at university rather than experience of life on the street.

Mrs Thornton hardly covered herself with glory in her previous job as Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police from 2007 until 2014. During this time, hundreds of children in Oxfordshire are believed to have been sexually abused by gangs of paedophiles. One report found that the police made scores of errors, and could and should have acted earlier.

But what does it matter if your force fails the citizens who pay for it, particularly if you have caught the eye of the Prime Minister, whose Witney constituency is in the Thames Valley area? Despite the fiasco on her watch, Sara Thornton was promoted to her present (extremely well-paid) position.

One of the most regrettable developments of the past 20 years is that law-abiding members of the public increasingly mistrust the police. Of course, most of us recognise that there are countless fine individual police officers, but we are worried about the values of the service.

Is that any wonder when a very senior officer appears to disregard the victims of burglary, not to mention in effect sanctioning the illegal cultivation of cannabis?

Let me give two small but telling recent examples of the police seeming not to care. A caller told Nick Ferrari’s LBC radio show in London yesterday how he had been struck on the head in broad daylight, knocked out and robbed of expensive computer equipment.

He ended up in hospital. When he recovered, he managed to trace his stolen iPad using satellite technology, but was told by police that they were not interested. He was also informed that they did not have the resources to examine CCTV footage of the incident.

A woman reader, mean- while, described in yesterday’s Times newspaper how she had rung the police after finding a bunch of keys, only to be told they no longer dealt with lost and found items. She managed with great difficulty to track down the grateful owner, who told her he had called at a local police station to report the loss, but had got nowhere.

Doesn’t this little story say it all? Of course the police often do a great job, and we couldn’t do without them. But when their officers appear not to care about the trials and tribulations of ordinary people — and when a senior chief says they may not bother to turn up after a burglary — it really is time to despair.

Sara Thornton (pictured), head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, says that public expectations have to change in the light of budget cuts
Sara Thornton: The impact of police cuts and changing crime

 

 

 

 

Burglary is one of life’s more appalling experiences. Having thieves break into your house and rifle through your most precious belongings is at best unnerving, at worst traumatic.

For years, the police have given the impression that they do not regard burglaries as a particularly grave crime. More than three-quarters of such offences are never solved, probably because they are not taken very seriously.

But until now we have at least had the reassurance of knowing that if your house is burgled, a young police officer will sooner or later call around, make copious notes and utter sympathetic noises over a cup of tea before disappearing over the horizon.

Don’t rely on even this meagre service. One of the country’s most senior police officers has conceded in an interview with the BBC that victims of burglaries can no longer depend on a home visit by a police officer. Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, says that public expectations have to change in the light of budget cuts suffered by the force.

For good measure, Mrs Thornton (who is said to be David Cameron’s favourite police officer) also gave a green light to cannabis growers by admitting that forces have given up investigating small-scale cannabis farms — echoing the recent remarks of Ron Hogg, Durham’s police and crime commissioner.

This is not the first time since she took up her £252,000-a-year post four months ago that she has warned about the allegedly calamitous effects of government cuts — which she grossly exaggerates. (The truth is that resources have merely been reduced from the profligate years when the New Labour government threw huge amounts of extra money at the country’s police forces.) A week ago, Mrs Thornton suggested that the traditional police beat may have to be replaced with targeted patrols.

The traditional police beat! I haven’t seen a bobby walking down a street near my home in this century, though it is true patrol cars sometimes race up and down the closest main road with lights flashing and sirens blaring. Mrs Thornton is threatening to take away something we lost long ago.

What does she intend to gain by warning us that burglaries may no longer be properly investigated? I suspect she may hope to win public support in the police’s wrangles with the Government over budget cuts. If so, she is deluded.

Most people will say that a police force that does not devote time to investigating burglaries is not a police force at all. And they will doubt — or at any rate they should doubt — the contention that the boys in blue have been so starved of funds that they can no longer come around to your house after thieves have helped themselves to your possessions.

Since 2010, police chiefs and representatives have been warning us that crime would soar as the result of cuts. In fact, the number of most recorded crimes (including burglary and car theft) has fallen, though probably no thanks to the police. Sociologists can’t agree about the causes, but rising employment must have something to do with it.

I might be more prepared to accept police sob stories if there weren’t so many examples of apparently abundant resources. Pass a small vehicle accident and you are likely to see three or four patrol cars. There is no shortage of bobbies if it comes to nabbing drivers for speeding.

When police dramatically raided Cliff Richard’s Berkshire home in his absence a year ago during an investigation into historic sex abuse, eight detectives and five cars rolled up with a BBC helicopter in attendance as though to arrest a dangerous felon. This kind of idiotic overkill is common in high-profile cases.

Cuts didn’t stop Scotland Yard from assembling dozens of detectives at an estimated cost of £20 million as part of Operation Elveden, which investigated payments allegedly made by journalists to public officials. Despite the huge expense and manpower, there have only been a handful of convictions.

Comments: Mrs Thornton (who is said to be David Cameron’s favourite police officer) also gave a green light to cannabis growers – echoing the recent remarks of Ron Hogg, Durham’s police and crime commissioner

Of course, tighter budgets will cause some strains, but there is bound to be room for greater efficiencies, not least by reducing the vast amount of unnecessary paperwork junior officers are still obliged to complete.

Instead of whingeing about the effect of cuts, senior officers should get on with the business of solving crimes that matter to ordinary people, of which burglary is high on the list. That must entail visiting the scene of the crime.

A sympathetic police officer does not merely offer a degree of comfort to the victim. There may be valuable evidence to collect. The thief who not long ago burgled an acquaintance of mine was convicted because he had left a fingerprint. Needless to say, he was still let off with a suspended sentence.

The truth is that many modern police chiefs such as Sara Thornton are often strangely removed from those they are supposed to serve. It is as though they are part of some detached sect whose primary loyalty is to its own doctrines, which are too often gleaned from sociology or criminology courses at university rather than experience of life on the street.

Mrs Thornton hardly covered herself with glory in her previous job as Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police from 2007 until 2014. During this time, hundreds of children in Oxfordshire are believed to have been sexually abused by gangs of paedophiles. One report found that the police made scores of errors, and could and should have acted earlier.

But what does it matter if your force fails the citizens who pay for it, particularly if you have caught the eye of the Prime Minister, whose Witney constituency is in the Thames Valley area? Despite the fiasco on her watch, Sara Thornton was promoted to her present (extremely well-paid) position.

One of the most regrettable developments of the past 20 years is that law-abiding members of the public increasingly mistrust the police. Of course, most of us recognise that there are countless fine individual police officers, but we are worried about the values of the service.

Is that any wonder when a very senior officer appears to disregard the victims of burglary, not to mention in effect sanctioning the illegal cultivation of cannabis?

Let me give two small but telling recent examples of the police seeming not to care. A caller told Nick Ferrari’s LBC radio show in London yesterday how he had been struck on the head in broad daylight, knocked out and robbed of expensive computer equipment.

He ended up in hospital. When he recovered, he managed to trace his stolen iPad using satellite technology, but was told by police that they were not interested. He was also informed that they did not have the resources to examine CCTV footage of the incident.

A woman reader, mean- while, described in yesterday’s Times newspaper how she had rung the police after finding a bunch of keys, only to be told they no longer dealt with lost and found items. She managed with great difficulty to track down the grateful owner, who told her he had called at a local police station to report the loss, but had got nowhere.

Doesn’t this little story say it all? Of course the police often do a great job, and we couldn’t do without them. But when their officers appear not to care about the trials and tribulations of ordinary people — and when a senior chief says they may not bother to turn up after a burglary — it really is time to despair.

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