Exc: Police attend fewer than a quarter of all car theft calls

Three quarters of car theft victims don’t see a police officer: Data reveals some forces attended fewer than a tenth of call-outs in the first half of 2023 – so how did they do in your area?

Police forces in England attended less than a quarter of car theft crime scenes on average in the first half of this year, new figures reveal today.

More than 51,000 vehicles were reported stolen between January and June, with owners receiving an in-person visit from a officer in just 23 per cent of cases.

Three forces, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Cheshire, attended nine per cent of crime scenes in person, with six further forces attending fewer than a fifth of call-outs, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Liberal Democrats.

In contrast, two forces attended every car crime report in person, though one of them, City of London, only had two. Cleveland, in the North East, sent officers to every one of the 562 reported car thefts, while Kent attended 99 per cent of its 394.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael told MailOnline: ‘People deserve to feel confident that if they’re the victim of a crime, the police will take their report seriously and that means at least arriving at the scene. Right now, it’s hard to feel that confidence.

‘Time and again, we have seen frontline policing sidelined by this Conservative Government. These shocking figures are just some of the consequences our communities are facing as a result.

Thirteen forces did not provide data. They were: Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Staffordshire, Thames Valley, Warwickshire, West Mercia, Sussex and Humberside.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: ‘People deserve to feel confident that if they’re the victim of a crime, the police will take their report seriously and that means at least arriving at the scene. Right now, it’s hard to feel that confidence.’

‘It’s just not good enough. It’s time for the Home Secretary to finally restore community policing – where officers are visible, trusted, and focused on tackling crimes like car theft.’ 

The figures show a massive variety in the number of car theft reports made in different force areas, showing the different geographical and population sizes.

There were almost 25,000 car thefts reported to the Metropolitan Police in London, compared to the two made to City of London, whose area is mainly business premises and has a small resident population.

There were just 81 reported thefts in largely rural north Yorkshire  and 101 in Cumbria. But there were more than 8,000 in the West Midlands and almost 3,300 in urban West Yorkshire.

The figures are for the six months before former home secretary Sulla Braverman and police forces made an agreement to investigate all crimes.

Officers were told there was no crime too minor to be probed and police will be forced to act if there is tangible evidence to follow up, including CCTV footage, vehicle dashcams or phone tracking.

The approach would end the practice of overlooking offences perceived as low level, including car theft, shoplifting, phone muggings and criminal damage.

Mrs Braverman said no crime should be considered minor and insisted police forces had the resources to investigate all offences without having to divert efforts from serious investigations.

But last month the chairman of the Police Federation described the pledge as unfeasible – and said the investigation of every crime ‘is not working’.

These are the 10 parts of the country worst hit by the rise in motor theft in 2022. The ratio is based on car thefts per 1,000 vehicles registered in each area

Steve Hartshorn, a Metropolitan Police officer who has served in armed response, revealed that he was given nothing more than a crime number from his own colleagues after his own car was broken into.

And some police forces have told MailOnline there was no point attending all car theft reports.

Detective Chief Superintendent Jaki Whittred, head of local policing for Bedfordshire Police, said: ‘The Government has a clear target for police forces to cut neighbourhood crime by 20 per cent and we have achieved a 36 per cent reduction in Bedfordshire. We also have the sixth highest solved rate of all police forces nationally for burglary.

‘While we will attend a scene if there are opportunities to conduct lines of enquiry, such as CCTV or forensic opportunities, we also have alternative methods to carry out an investigation without having to physically attend. For instance, we can add the vehicle’s details to the Police National Computer (PNC) database.’

A Cambridge Police spokeswoman added: ‘We are committed to tackling crime, including theft of vehicles, but we often have to make difficult decisions around whether an officer should attend a scene – balancing the resources at our disposal with competing demands. 

‘Additionally, it may be clear from the initial call that attending the scene does not present any evidential opportunities and the investigation can progress without physical attendance.’

And a spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police, which attended 13 per cent of car thefts, said: ‘Attendance is based on the threat, harm and risk posed to the public and incidents where there is a crime in progress will always be prioritised. 

‘In relation to thefts of a motor vehicle, there’s often no scene to examine as the vehicle has already been taken. In these circumstances, officers may look to complete area tours, if within an appropriate timeframe, as well as other enquiries as part of an investigation, including CCTV trawls and house-to-house enquiries.

‘This would not be recorded on the incident log as an attendance at the scene – so this doesn’t mean no action has been taken, or show whether officers have attended other locations following sightings, or to carry out further enquiries.’

A Surrey Police spokesman said: ‘The decision on whether a police unit is despatched to attend a call is based off a variety of factors and calculated according to a ”THRIVE” risk matrix. THRIVE stands for ”Threat”, ”Harm”, ”Risk”, ”Investigation”, ”Vulnerability”, and ”Engagement”, and provides a framework for both police attendance and investigations.

‘Police resources are finite, and so calls where the threat, harm, or risk factors to members of the public are considered higher will be treated as a priority when it comes to attendance. Incidents where an offender has already left the scene and there is no immediate threat to the public will automatically score lower on the THRIVE assessment, and an officer may not be deployed to attend. However, this does not mean that an investigation is not carried out.’

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