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Norfolk police 'fail to investigate' one third of crimes

PUBLISHED: 11:00 24 November 2009 | UPDATED: 11:03 07 July 2010

Rob Garratt

Norfolk police failed to investigate more than a third of crimes reported to them over the last year, a new report has revealed.

The county has been singled out for having one of the highest rates of crimes "screened out" in the country.

Norfolk police failed to investigate more than a third of crimes reported to them over the last year, a new report has revealed.

The county has been singled out for having one of the highest rates of crimes “screened out” in the country.

From a total of 49,171 crimes reported to Norfolk Constabulary in the 2008/09 period, a total of 17,139 were dismissed as “unsolvable” within a few hours, which makes up 35pc of all the county's reported crimes.

However the fresh figures are an improvement on previous years, which saw more than 40pc of crimes not investigated in 2007/08.

This year's figures include more than half of reported cases of criminal damage, burglary not from a dwelling and theft from a motor vehicle.

The offences are included in official figures and the victims are issued with reference numbers for insurance claims, but it is not pursued by a police investigator.

Out of 18 forces surveyed by The Sunday Telegraph, Norfolk was the fifth worst offender for the proportion of crimes “screened-out”.

But Norfolk Constabulary said it is just one of a handful of forces in the country that send an officer to visit every victim of crime, a policy brought in this September.

Kate Biles, divisional director of Victim Support in Norfolk and Suffolk, raised fears that as more crimes go uninvestigated victims will neglect to report crimes at all.

She said: “If people don't feel a crime will be investigated they won't report it to the police, and that leads to a lack of confidence in people's own homes.

“We accept that some crimes are never going to be solved but being the victim of any crime is upsetting and people need to feel their crime is being taken seriously and somebody understands the impact it has on them.

“They are the forgotten people of the criminal justice system, the people who are scared to go out of the house.

“It's difficult to say why more crimes are screened out in the county - I can't imagine criminals are smarter in Norfolk.”

The number of “screened-out” crimes leapt from 28pc in 2004/05 to 41pc in 2007/08, before settling back at 35pc for 2008/09.

Malcolm Sneesby, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation, said the figures did “not surprise” him.

He said: “Unfortunately there are a lot of crimes where there is no evidence - and when there is no evidence it's very hard to do anything with them.

“As a figure it does not surprise me, whether its justifiable or not is another matter.”

The figures showed the crimes most frequently written off were criminal damage and burglary not from a dwelling, with 56pc of both crimes not pursued by investigators. Another 51pc of thefts from motor vehicles are screened out, as well as 36pc of stolen motor vehicles.

About 7pc of sex offences are screened out, while just 0.5pc of drugs offences face the same treatment.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said the figures were “worrying”.

She added: “Everyone will want to know why these crimes have gone unsolved and what can be done.”

Nationally, of the 18 forces held up to scrutiny a total 32pc of crimes go investigated, while a further 15 forces said they did not “screen out” crimes.

Serious crimes such as murder, wounding or rape are always investigated, as are crimes with forensic evidence or a named suspect. If new evidence comes to light a crime that has been screened out can be investigated further.

A Norfolk Constabulary spokesman said: “The term 'screened out' is a misnomer in today's policing.

“Norfolk is one of only a handful of forces in England and Wales that visits every victim of crime - we have made it our priority to visit every crime victim, regardless of the severity of the offence.

“This helps us to maximise the effectiveness of our resources so we can focus our efforts on investigating those crimes that are solvable.”

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