Letter: How solving fewer crimes enables police to catch more criminals

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your lead story 'Police solve fewer and fewer crimes' (24 February) focused on only one element of the police/crime equation and, certainly as far as Northumbria Police are concerned, ignored positive inroads that are being made in the fight against crime.

Eighteen months ago this force made a policy decision to discontinue routine prison visits that provided retrospective detection of crime.

We felt that interviewing prisoners already serving sentences was not the best use of scarce resources and redirected the energies of detectives towards the targeting of offenders at large in the community. We warned that detection rates would not stay at the previously high level but believed that the change in policy would bring benefits for the people of the area.

The results speak for themselves. Detection rates have indeed fallen, from 40 per cent in 1990 to 35 per cent at the end of 1991 and 17 per cent in 1992. But arrests are up by almost 2,000 and, in complete contrast with elsewhere, overall crime dropped by 2.4 per cent in Northumbria during 1992. This reduction means 5,000 fewer crimes and many thousand fewer victims suffering the stress and anguish associated with crime.

National statistics also show that Northumbria officers are among the most effective and productive in the country, each dealing with 58 crimes a year, compared with the national average of 42, and arresting 19 offenders compared with the national figure of 16.

Our priorities are to reduce crime and disorder in this area, and we are prepared to accept a reduction in retrospective detections if this results in the apprehension of more active criminals who are affecting the quality of life for local people.

Yours sincerely,

DAVID MELLISH

Assistant Chief Constable

Northumbria Police

Ponteland, Northumbria

24 February

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