Vast majority of burglaries are unsolved

You would think that police would be obliged to attend all household burglaries, wouldn’t you? Apparently they don’t. And even when they do the chances of them actually finding the criminal is very slim.

In England and Wales last year 73% of all domestic burglaries were unsolved. An even smaller percentage (3.5%) resulted in someone being charged. Put another way, in the last five years 1.4 million burglaries went unsolved. And the percentage resulting in a charge has gone down year on year so that by last year it was less than half that in 2017 (which was bad enough, anyway).

These figures were provided in a press release today from the Lib Dem Media Team. You can see the police figures, broken down by area, here.

So now we hear that police forces in England and Wales have pledged to attend every home burglary. This would appear to be the minimum expectation on a police force. I can’t imagine how devastating it would be for a person to come home to find their home has been broken into, and items stolen, but when they report it to the police no-one comes to investigate. However we have to ask whether this will increase the clear-up rate. Or more pertinently why the clear-up rate is so low.

We have a comment from Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael:

It is devastating for victims that the overwhelming majority of burglaries go unsolved.

While this is a positive step, without proper resources from the Government this pledge risks being nothing more than a box-ticking exercise.

The Conservatives are letting down victims and allowing burglaries to run rife.

Ministers must give police the officers, time and resources they need to properly investigate crime.

The fear of crime has a noxious effect on our social lives, whether it makes women afraid of going out after dark, or keeps people who live alone awake at night. Sales of home security systems with cameras have rocketed, but it seems that even where there is an image of a burglary or attempted burglary the chances of anyone being arrested are very low. Burglary must seem like an attractive career choice to some.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Laurence Cox 5th Oct '22 - 11:33am

    The Metropolitan Police has an appalling record on burglaries and seems to have effectively decriminalized them. A friend of mine in West London has been burgled twice, a month apart, and the police are just not interested. All they do is give a crime number for an insurance claim. With all the CCTV cameras including those in people’s doorbells, there is a good chance that the criminals have been caught on camera, but the police don’t seem to be interested in doing what used to be thought of as basic police work.

  • I agree this (and the general public feeling that other serious crime is not being taken seriously, investigated or solved). Adding to the noxious effect on people’s lives of making them afraid todo things they would like to it, it is also noxious to general trust between people.

    As to the police not getting enough resources. Maybe, but before more resources are given, we need to see resources already given being better used. Police officers are overwhelmed with paperwork, which comes about due to this idea that endless papertrails are good for accountability. In practice, the overwhelming majority of police officers are public spirited, professional and have a sense of duty. Piling hours of extra paperwork daily to everyone probably causes more harm (in the form of less policing time) than good (this mythical accountability theory). This may need legislation since paperwork obsessions tend to follow regulations derived from laws.

    Whilst representing a relatively small amount of police time in the grand scheme of things, cutting down on the police pursing non-criminal activity would help. People are finding the police at their door because they have said something offensive (but entirely legal) on social media. A waste of police time totally. But also terrible optics given the widespread public sense that serious crimes aren’t being attended to (let alone investigated)

  • George Thomas 5th Oct '22 - 9:53pm

    With respect James Pugh, I disagree with your suggestion that paperwork does more harm than good (the process of getting to court isn’t as smooth or easy as it should be but good paperwork is needed to ensure police officer’s work doesn’t make the process any worse) and that “people” (plural) are being knocked on for legal but disagreeable opinions on social media. One ex-BBC journalist who used to claim this happened to him has ended up in jail for very real crime of harassment so perhaps claims can be taken with pinch of salt.

    There is too much paperwork for police officers, agreed, but I wonder if this is as result of high levels of anti-social behaviour and need to respond even before “scarier” crimes come into play.

    I’m not sure police offices pledging to attend to every burglary will have any impact other than give impression they’re able to be more active again and this impression deterring crime.

    Why are children in my area carrying knives and dealing drugs? The answer to that is found well before a police officer gets out of bed to start their day and if we tackle those reasons then we might see reduction in workload for police and them playing their role more effectively.

  • In many areas most people have various forms of devices which record what is going on in the street. Many do in fact post the videos on social media. What we see is people wearing black clothes and masks trying car doors or house doors in the night. I am not sure that when an actual crime happens there is a way of finding which people in black with masks is responsible.

  • @George Thomas

    Some documentation is of course required. However the extent of it (and time it takes to complete) takes police officers away from policing and this is having a detrimental effect. There is a mediocre manager’s bureaucratic mindset that dictates documentation=good, more documentation=better. And so paperwork multiplies

    Not only is it time consuming, but it infects the tick-box bureaucratic mindset from managers to the frontline workforce. And this is very damaging to the way the front line public sector workforce are supposed to operate. Social workers were the first to be hollowed out like this. Nurses and police followed. And its well underway with teachers and doctors. These are all professionals, who assess the individual case, and use their expertise to make judgements. Tick-box working is the anathema to this.

    About police time being wasted on social media disagreements. I said clearly in cases where no crime had been committed, merely someone writing something offensive (often a general statement, not referencing an individual). Stalking is a crime and is what the BBC presented was tried and imprisoned for. These are not remotely similar

  • It is a shame no reference is made to the results of the recent trials of this policy, on which the recent announcements are based.

    Unfortunately, not been able to find a web source, but from a presentation on the results of a local trial, the police were pleased citing one case where they were able to identify a suspect and then use their mobile phone records to place them at a number of other burglaries and secure a conviction.

    However, I do suspect this initiative will require additional funding for police, but I would suggest the value for money impact on a local community and economy massively exceeds any benefits that might be attributable to “trickledown” mumbo jumbo.

  • I’m not sure the police attending every reported burglery is the best use of resources. Better to have specialised civilians that can visit and record the event, categorise and advise how to prevent recurrence. Police only get involved if realistic chance of catching offender.

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