Investigating crime


There has been a lot of press interest in the headline that GMP only investigates about 40 per cent of crime. As often the real story behind the headline is a lot more complex than that.

Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy

The comment was taken from a public scrutiny meeting on the issue of fraud. Part of the concern raised by victims was that not all allegations of fraud are taken forward into investigation. I put this into the context that we actively investigate about 40 per cent of crime overall and it was this line which then created the headline. By the way this is a shame as there were a lot of important issues surrounding fraud and crime on the internet discussed at this meeting which were not covered by the media.

Our strategy for tackling crime is based on three key elements:

1. Investigating crimes reported to us

All crime that is reported to GMP is carefully examined as to whether there are reasonable lines of enquiry. Of course in many cases we will have attended the scene of the crime and officers will have carried out an initial investigation. The crime goes to a crime desk which looks at whether these basic enquiries have been completed properly. If there are further tasks to be completed and there are further reasonable lines of enquiry then the crime will be allocated to an investigating officer. In making this decision we also look at how serious the crime is and the threat harm and risk to the general public.

Our expe

rience and professional knowledge tells us what activities and police tactics are likely to produce results and this is part of the decision making process. On average somewhere around 40 per cent of crime has a reasonable line of enquiry although we will always pursue the most serious offences to see if further work will turn up any further evidence.

We have to be realistic that in many crimes there are no witnesses, no forensic evidence and no CCTV evidence. Criminals try to commit crime without anyone seeing them or being able to recognise them. Thankfully many are stupid or careless. As police officers we have to work within the powers the law gives us and respect the rules and safeguards that are there when interviewing suspects. Any evidence we gather has to meet the criminal standard of beyond all reasonable doubt.

2. Targeting that group of persistent offenders who commit most crime

The vast majority of crime is committed by a relatively small group of persistent prolific offenders. So a key part of our efforts to reduce crime and protect the public is to target this group;  just as important as investigating burglary, is investigating burglars. This g


3. Patrolling those areas where we think crime is likely to occur
roup of offenders go in and out of the criminal justice system and some are back committing crime within hours of being released from prison. Every police station has its cohort of current target offenders that officers are expected to gather information and intelligence by regularly visiting them and stopping them when they see them out and about. We work with the Probation Service and with other agencies to try and divert these people and help them with their drug or drink problem or for instance accommodation but if they refuse that help and continue their offending or breach their licence conditions then our aim is to get them back into custody.

We do this by analysing patterns of crime and using computer analysis and our knowledge of offending behaviour to predict where crime will occur next. We task our officers to patrol those areas sometimes in uniform, sometimes in plain clothes. We use satellite tracking of where our officers are to ensure they follow those plans. This is called predictive mapping and is being used by a number of forces around the world.

In order to continue to reduce crime it is important that we balance these three activities of investigating crimes reported to us, targeting persistent offenders and patrolling those areas where we believe crime is most likely to occur next. If we just spent all our time investigating crime after it happened we would not have the officers to carry out the proactive work of targeting offenders and being out on patrol.

There have been some dramatic headlines about what I said despite the fact that this story has been covered many times before and in particular was publicised by GMP three years ago. The police have never investigated one hundred per cent of crime and in reality we can only do something where there is a line of enquiry to follow. I don’t think the public want us to waste time pursuing crimes where there is a low chance of success unless these are particularly serious offences. They would expect to be using police officer time where it is most likely to have success.

This does not mean we don’t care about crime or that we have given up on crime. It does not mean we don’t care about more minor offences. Our way of dealing with crime has led to crime being reduced by half over the past ten years. A key part of this is the way we have improved our intelligence gathering and analysis and this has led to our prisons being full and over crowded.

Behind my comments is a frustration shared by most police officers about our ability to control those dedicated to a life of crime who cause most harm and misery to victims. I am not one of those who believe in locking criminals up and throwing away the key, I believe everyone deserves a second chance and we have to be committed to diverting criminals away from offending and helping them to start anew. On the other hand there are too many offenders who refuse the chances offered to them and blatantly disregard bail conditions, court orders and licence provisions and these are allowed to commit too many offences and damage too many victims before they are properly controlled. It makes me really angry to see offenders going back to where they committed crime before and burgling in areas they targeted before. I think we need a wider range of sanctions and control measures which apply to offenders until they show a real commitment to change their ways. We have registered sex offenders who have long years of conditions on where they can live, we have sex offender orders to put conditions on where they can go for instance to keep them away from young children and perhaps we need a registered burglar scheme to keep them away from areas which they have exploited in then past and to ensure they keep away from activities preparatory to offending.

We have a very planned targeted approach. In the last few weeks alone we have had colleagues from Sweden, Chile and Australia visiting GMP to see our approach. We have learnt that you have to control the number of crimes that are under active investigation so that officers are not overwhelmed and can concentrate on where there are the best chances if success. We know we not only have to give a good service to victims but we have to reduce the chances of others being victims in the future.

One of the journalists who interviewed me suggested that I should not have publicised this figure as it damages public confidence and I should have kept it secret. I cannot accept this. It is important that we are open with the public and that they understand the reality of policing and the tactics, powers and processes we use to keep them safe. If certain journalists choose to sensationalise this and write dramatic headlines then that is a matter for them it will not stop me being open and honest with the people of Greater Manchester and involving them in every way I can in the fight against crime.

3 thoughts on “Investigating crime

  1. vivienne james

    perhaps the police force would have more time and resources to investigate true crimes, if they didn’t spend getting involved in non police issues. 3 weeks ago a police officer spent 2 hours with my neighbours and myself as they reported me for standing at a bedroom window with a camera in my hand, the police officer said even if I had been filming, which I wasn’t, it was a civil matter. so why the visit, made worse by the neighbour regularly reports local residents to the police for ” imaginary” crimes and they always get a visit!!!

    Reply
  2. Rachel Wilson

    This answers something put to me recently, and something I’ve explained to lots of people. I’m amazed how similar mine and Sir Peter Fahy’s views are. I should have been PCC, dammit.

    So, FB, why don’t we immediately send 2 bobbies and a riot van to you when you’ve been slapped and the offender is long gone? Cos there’d be no point, that’s why. Sorry.

    While that sounds callous, there are lots of positive ways to reduce crime. The first, and most obvious (but least practiced) is to increase social mobility, and reduce the gap between the rich and poor. Make a sensible economic foundation for your society such that no-one needs to steal, and such that everyone can have a productive role and a private haven called a home.

    We can’t create Utopia on a Sunday night on Facebook, but in the meantime, the main point here, is that *evidence* is the key to cutting and solving crime. We are in an era where everyone can have a camera – use it. This is not the Metropolitan Police Service – we have no interest in censorship or duplicity here in Manchester. Everyone’s crimes are crimes, and should be indicted where there is enough evidence – by Greater Manchester Police or by citizens applying Section 24a of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

    Use your camera whenever you feel a crime is taking place – people’s responses to being challenged or observed are often dead giveaways that they’ve done something – and those responses (abuse, violence against a photographer, etc.) are crimes themselves – which you’re recording, and can be used as the beginning of one of those trails Uncle Peter describes. Discovery of one crime, even discovery of guilt followed by violence, can and does lead to further, unsolved but (maybe) previously recorded, crimes… combined with the fact that we are getting better at using computers to correlate such things, this means that if the public choose to support the police on this “front”, crime will reduce, and if the public choose not to, crime will become even easier than it is now.

    The other problem is hinted at above – if you help the police will it simply be to serve the interests of those who cause the root problem – lack of social mobility and income inequality, and planned lack of opportunity? The contrast above, and in every other policing / public order related post I make, between GMP and the MET(alheads), should make clear how I feel about this. Sir Peter, your integrity and political independence has been clear so far, you have been a beacon of hope for me since I enjoyed (yes, enjoyed, and so did lots of your officers of all ranks!) shaping Operation Protector with the Force in October 2011. Please maintain your, and your Force’s integrity during the biggest public order operation any police officer in the UK is likely to have taken part in, later this month. I hope you’ll be Gold Command yourself, and never give that post to the MET. Donna Allen, while you’re asleep, and you doing doubles.

    I will be talking to you soon. I’ve heard rumours in the Force that it’s expected that I will come to see you when the time is right. So – Expect me (note: not us, but reminiscent). In a good way. Soon.

    Reply

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