Police ask victims to do ‘DIY’ investigations of some crimes

Police encourage victims to look for potential witnesses or fingerprints

Crime Correspondent

Talent for putting up shelves? House renovation? What about a new DIY challenge: working out who stole the car from the bottom of the drive.

Inspectors today outline their concerns over a growing trend for victims of crime to be asked to carry out their own DIY investigations after having their car stolen or property damaged. Householders are being asked by police to look out for potential fingerprint evidence, check for witnesses and look on second-hand websites for stolen property, according to a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

It found that 37 of the 43 forces in England and Wales dealt with some cases over the telephone and closed some without the victim ever meeting a police officer. Seventeen of the forces failed to recognise vulnerable victims, the report found.

HMIC said it was particularly concerned about desk-based investigations which in some cases amounted to little more than recording a crime without taking further action. The watchdog warned that some offences, such as criminal damage or stolen vehicles, are on the verge of being decriminalised by police forces which had given up investigating them.

Roger Baker, one of the inspectors, said: “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. 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.

“It’s more a mindset, that we no longer deal with these things. And 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 into policing to say ‘we’ve almost given up’.”

In some cases, police community support officers were asked to investigate.

Sir Hugh Orde, the head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: “The reality of austerity in policing means that forces must ensure that their officers’ time is put to best use and this means prioritising calls.

“In some instances, this may mean that a report of a crime where the victim is not in imminent danger or the offender is not still in the immediate vicinity will be dealt with over the phone or by other means than the deployment of an officer to the scene. This is not an abdication of forces’ duty of care to victims.”

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