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80% of burglary cases 'go unsolved'

Published 13/08/2015

Officers insist all burglaries will be investigated, and that levels of the crime are at their lowest for 30 years
Officers insist all burglaries will be investigated, and that levels of the crime are at their lowest for 30 years

Four in five burglaries go unsolved, figures have revealed - prompting fresh questions about how police respond to the crime.

Forces in England and Wales closed 80.2% of investigations into break-ins without identifying a suspect in 2014/15.

Press Association analysis of Home Office data published last month showed that just one in 15 burgla ries (6.6%) led to a charge or summons.

A fierce debate has erupted in recent weeks over how police approach burglary inquiries in the face of budget cuts and staff losses.

Sara Thornton, one of the country's most senior officers, has suggested police may not always attend homes after they are broken into and raised the possibility of burglary victims sending evidence to police over the internet.

Meanwhile one force piloted an approach in which attempted break-ins at houses with odd numbers were not fully investigated.

Success rates in burglary inquiries appear to be comparatively low. Across all crimes, the proportion of cases closed without a suspect being identified falls to just under half (49%).

The overall proportion of offences leading to a charge or summons is also more than double that for burglaries - 15.5%.

Crime outcome figures show that 1.1% of burglaries are "taken into consideration" by courts dealing with criminals convicted of multiple offences.

A very small proportion - 0.5% - are dealt with out of court - while in the same percentage of break-ins prosecutions are deemed not to be "in the public interest".

In one in 25 instances (4.3%) a suspect was identified but "evidential difficulties" prevented further action, while in 1.2% of investigations the victim did not want to pursue further action. The remaining 5.6% have not yet been assigned an outcome.

Separate figures suggest burglary rates are falling, with an estimated 785,000 domestic break-ins in the year to March - two thirds (67%) lower than in 1995.

Karen Froggatt, director of the charity Victim Support, said: " We know the police do their best, in challenging circumstances, to catch offenders and make sure that they are brought to justice.

"Nevertheless it is disappointing that eight in 10 burglaries go unsolved. Not only does this mean that the vast majority of burglary victims are denied justice and see no chance of having their possessions recovered, it also means offenders are free to reoffend.

"Victims of crime need to have confidence that the police are making every effort to catch offenders so, where a case is closed without a suspect being identified, it is important that victims understand the reasons why.

"Victims tell us they suffer far more than lost possessions when their home is burgled. There can be a lasting effect on the whole family and victims often feel violated as their home is no longer a safe haven.

"Knowing a burglar is still at large can also add to a sense of anxiety and stress for victims."

Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Morgan, NPCC lead on burglary, said police recognise the impact burglaries have on their victims.

He said: "W hen it comes to the investigation of burglaries, it is not a question of if we will investigate, but when - all burglary crimes will be investigated and responded to.

"Research has shown us how to prevent repeat burglaries and that taking basic crime prevention measures work. Burglary rates are now at their lowest for thirty years.

"The best chance of achieving a successful outcome in a burglary investigation is either through the perpetrator being apprehended at the scene or by the retrieval of forensic material which can identify a perpetrator."

The Home Office said all crimes reported to police should be taken seriously and investigated.

A spokesman added: "Decisions on individual investigations are an operational matter for Chief Constables based on the evidence available to them and investigations can be reopened at any time should further evidence come to light."

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