Outcry from victims' groups as police downgrade break-ins at odd-numbered houses

Cost-cutting trial saw Leicestershire Police officers downgrade investigations

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The Independent Online

Police officers have been accused of failing to take an even-handed approach to attempted burglaries, after it emerged a Midlands force was failing to fully investigate attempted break-ins at odd-numbered houses.

To the dismay of victims’ groups and the local police and crime commissioner, a three-month cost-cutting trial by Leicestershire Police saw officers downgrade investigations into attempted burglaries.

The force wanted to see if only responding to half of attempted burglaries had any impact on victim satisfaction rates. Under the scheme, which has been labelled “ridiculous and haphazard” by the local MP Jonathan Ashworth, burglaries at even-numbered houses were fully investigated with full forensic teams and fingerprints taken but this did not take place if the victim lived in an odd-numbered house.

 

The force said the scheme was designed to make the “very best possible use” of “limited resources”. Leicestershire’s 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 sending them to scenes where there is no evidence to retrieve.”

Jo Ashworth, the director of forensic sciences at the East Midlands special operations unit, which led the trial added: “The pilot was developed to look at what value forensic teams bring to the detection of attempted burglaries. At a time when we are operating within reduced budgets, it is even more critical that we make the best use of our crime scene investigators’ time.”

The cut-back in police responses to burglaries in Leicestershire comes after victims of break-ins nationally were warned that they would no longer receive routine visits from police officers because of spending cuts.

The warning last week from Sara Thornton, the head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), follows a 25 per cent reduction in police resources over the past four years and a further squeeze announced in last month’s Budget. Police across the country are increasingly under pressure to concentrate on crimes such as sex offences and online fraud, but this has prompted anger among victims’ groups.

Olwen Edwards, from Victim Support in Leicestershire, said: “All victims of crime deserve their cases to be robustly investigated. This may not always involve collecting forensic evidence, but where this doesn’t happen, the police should explain the reasons why.”

Leicestershire’s police and crime commissioner, Sir Clive Loader, has quickly distanced himself from the scheme, saying he did not know about the pilot. He said: “Had I been consulted I would have advised against it, particularly in light of the controls chosen, which, to me at least, are unlikely to inspire much public confidence.”

Leicestershire Police insisted that if a burglary victim was vulnerable or the attempted burglary was part of a series of crimes, officer would visit the property regardless of house number.