Met Say Charging Shoplifters, Vandals ‘Not Practical’ as Arrests for ‘Offensive’ Comments Rise 53 Per Cent

Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images
Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

London’s Metropolitan Police Force has said it will give up on investigating many instances of “low-level” crime such as shoplifting and vandalism, saying it is “not practical” to fight them in a time of cutbacks.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons claimed that giving up on investigating many offences was necessary so police constables’ efforts could be “focused on serious crime and cases where there is a realistic chance that we will be able to solve it.”

The move has raised eyebrows among members of the public, considering recent reports that the Met detained 867 out of the 3,395 people known to have been arrested for “offensive” online comments under the Malicious Communications Act in 2016 — an increase of 53 per cent for the force area since 2014.

Around half of these investigations ended up having to be dropped across the UK, which critics have taken as indicating police are being overzealous in their attempts to take on so-called trolls.

This process of paring back investigations has, in fact, been going on for years. Sir Peter Fahy, then Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, admitted that his force did not “actively pursue” six out of every ten crime reports as far back as 2013.

As long ago as 2007-2008 police in Nofolk were ‘screening out’ 23,124 of 55,686 reported crimes — 41.69 per cent — including 57 per cent of theft from motor vehicles and 55 per cent of non-dwelling burglaries.

Crimes would be ‘screened out’ by the call centre staff members of the public initially spoke to, if they did not feel the reports met certain ‘solvability criteria’ — CCTV footage, good forensic footage, etc.

The effective tolerance of so-called low-level crime by the National Police Chiefs Council in the UK contrasts sharply with the attitude of the more effective police forces in the U.S., which have adopted the ‘broken windows’ model which emphasises robust action against seemingly minor crimes which ultimately lead to increased general disorder.

Official statistics on crime in Britain are a mixed bag, with crimes recorded by police having seen their largest annual surge in a decade in the twelve months to 2016, with a particularly sharp rise in violent crime.

Crime Survey responses have been used to make the contrasting claim that it is in fact down by 69 per cent since 1995 —
but the Police Federation has complained that the Crime Survey gives a “false picture” of the situation which is “highly miselading to the public”.

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