The PSNI's record of solving crimes has fallen to the bottom of a league table of similar police forces, Sir Hugh Orde admitted yesterday.
A drop in overall crime figures was undercut by the statistics suggesting the PSNI isn't solving as many crimes as it should.
Reported crime dropped by nearly 16% between April and August, PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde told the Policing Board yesterday.
But Sir Hugh admitted he is "more concerned" by figures showing a fall in the percentage of crimes cleared by the PSNI.
He said the clearance rate of 16.2% was "at the bottom" when compared to similar UK police forces - although he said the PSNI does not have as many options for officially clearing crimes that forces in the UK have.
But he said the clearance rate "should be above 20% in my judgement" - which would mean a resolution for one in every five crimes reported.
He indicated that he will consult other UK forces to check PSNI procedures.
Northumbria Constabulary, which had the best record among comparable UK forces, clears almost 40% of reported crime.
The PSNI had aimed for an increase in crime clearances, but actually saw them fall.
Sir Hugh indicated that part of the problem may be cases waiting for a decision from the Prosecution Service.
He said he has instructed his area commanders "as a matter of urgency" to meet with prosecutors about "getting clear ups into the system".
Board members congratulated Sir Hugh on the fall in crime.
There were less than 40,000 offences reported between April and August, which represented more than 8,300 fewer crimes than in the same four month period last year.
The Chief Constable said he had the figures independently audited, because there had been a change in the way police record crime reports. He confirmed the fall in reported crime was not a result of the new system.
Board chairman Sir Desmond Rea said there were "some very good figures" in the crime statistics.