Charles Hymas, The Telegraph, July 10, 2022
Scotland Yard has “effectively decriminalised” theft from cars, putting pressure on the new commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to take action.
An analysis by The Telegraph of Home Office data has shown that the Metropolitan Police solved just 05. per cent, 271 out of nearly 55,000 thefts from vehicles in London ast year.
Because of the size of the Metropolitan Police’s area, it accounts for nearly a quarter of all car thefts recorded by police in England and Wales.
It comes just days after the force was placed in “special measures” by HM Inspectorate of Police, because of “substantial and persistent concerns” about its performance, including failures to properly investigate crime.
Sir Mark, who was announced as the new commissioner on Friday, has promised a major expansion of neighbourhood policing and is known to be an advocate of the “broken windows” philosophy – where police target visible signs of local crime, such as anti-social behaviour and disorder.
Reversing low charging rate in crimes such as theft from cars is likely to be part of his plan to “fight crime with communities.”
Only two other major forces – West Midlands and Surrey – had lower charging rates, at 0.4 per cent, although City of London solved none of its 80 car thefts. Nationally, just one in 100 thefts from cars resulted in a charge
Rick Muir, head of the Police Foundation, a think tank which led a commission on policing, warned it amounted to the “effective decriminalisation” of the offence and risked encouraging thieves to commit crimes, because they know they would never be caught.
He warned such offences were being effectively screened out by police, as they prioritised more serious crimes of violence and sexual abuse.
“Victims of these kinds of these crimes would not expect to get the same level of priority as more serious offences,” said Mr Muir. “But, at the same time, there are certain things the public expect of police, one of which is that they will at least investigate these bread and butter crimes.
“Policing is going to have to look at these levels and decide if it has got it right. Where the charge rates are at that level, there is no deterrence to commit these kinds of offences and it might encourage people to commit them in future.”
The proportion of thefts from cars resulting in a charge across all forces in England and Wales halved from two per cent to one per cent last year, according to the Home Office data.
Owners continue to leave valuables in cars
It revealed wide variations, with the most effective, Dyfed-Powys, reporting a charging rate 10 times that of the Metropolitan Police, at 5.6 per cent. It was followed by Durham (4.4 per cent) and North Yorkshire (3.6 per cent).
The proportion of “theft of vehicles” offences resulting in a charge has fallen more sharply, from 8.7 per cent in 2016 to three per cent last year. West Midlands police solved fewer than one in 100 (0.9 per cent), Bedfordshire 1.3 per cent, Surrey 1.4 per cent, the Metropolitan Police and Kent 1.7 per cent.
It comes amid claims of a surge in thefts from vehicles. Dr Keith Floyd, who specialises in policing at Huddersfield University, said car thieves interviewed for his research said it was “incredible” how much valuable property people left in their cars, despite decades of crime prevention.
“What we found in our research was that theft from unattended vehicles was on the rise,” said Dr Floyd. “For thieves, there is a simple sign. When you lock most modern cars, the mirrors fold into the car. Car thieves will stop and check any vehicle where the mirrors are open.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “Any allegation of crime reported to the police will be assessed to see if there are any viable lines of enquiry, including forensic opportunities that can be progressed.”
The spokesman said the force was deploying 650 new officers in “town centre teams” to cut crime and increase confidence in communities through greater police visibility.
Asst chief constable Jennifer Sims, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for vehicle crime, said vehicle theft was not a low-level offence. “It is a serious crimes which causes distress and upset to victims and we take it very seriously,” she said.