Failure to solve crimes blamed on police bureaucracy: Terry Kirby examines a critical report which calls for a 'top-to-bottom' review of London's CID

CRIMES in central London are not being solved because of stagnation, a lack of strategy and bureaucracy among detectives, according to a critical report by the Inspectorate of Constabulary, published yesterday.

The report by Brian Hayes, former Chief Constable of Surrey, said a 'top- to-bottom' review of investigation and prevention of crime and the recruitment and retention of detectives in the area was needed.

He also attacks the 'dubious' method of dealing with complaints against the police by conciliation with the complainant, which he says leads to many serious accusations against officers going uninvestigated and distorts both London and national statistics. He says the force-wide practice should be stopped.

The report into the Metropolitan Police No 8 Area, which covers central London including Westminster and the West End, is deeply embarrassing. Mr Hayes says it is a unique location requiring special skills, despite the low crime rate. The criticisms will also be seen as having wider implications for the rest of the 27,000-strong force.

Detectives in the provinces normally spend two to four years in CID before returning to uniform; in central London, Mr Hayes says, this is interpreted as movement only within CID. 'Stagnation within CID is very worrying', preventing young, able officers from gaining experience.

He attacks detectives for poor crime reports, which were lengthy but with too little detail of the investigations carried out. Crime desks are also criticised. 'All the evidence points to detections being lost through inefficient paper-based systems and bureaucratic practices.'

He concludes: 'There was no readily apparent area or divisional crime strategy and generally insufficient co-ordination between the efforts of all those engaged in the prevention of crime.' This situation, together with a 'chronic lack of technology' for both crime reporting and intelligence, was 'leading to a distinct loss of detections'.

The report says arrests have dropped by 22 per cent, compared to a 12 per cent average drop force-wide. Mr Hayes says this is due largely to a lowering of police morale and changes in the law and criminal justice system. Police sources pointed out last night that the criticisms were mainly directed at divisional detectives and not special squads.

Scotland Yard said many of the issues raised and recommendations made had implications locally and for the whole force and would be 'examined closely'.

Sir John Woodcock, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, warned in his annual report yesterday that replacing patrolling police officers with private security officers could be a disaster.

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