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Burglary victims may not get visit from police says NPCC chief

Published 28/07/2015

Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said forces needed to shift their focus away from
Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said forces needed to shift their focus away from "traditional" offences in the wake of budget cuts and staff losses
Sara Thornton, NPCC chief, said forces needed to shift their focus away from "traditional" offences

Burglary victims may not always be visited at home as police prioritise other crimes, one of Britain's most senior officers has suggested.

Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), said forces needed to shift their focus away from "traditional" offences in the wake of budget cuts and staff losses

She admitted it "could be" that officers would not attend someone's home when they reported that their iPad had been stolen.

Ms Thornton told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire: "Crime is changing in this country. There are a lot less burglaries than there used to be and a lot less car crime.

"The sorts of crimes that are on the increase - sexual offences, concerns about terrorism, cyber crime - that's where we really need to focus.

"We need to move from reacting to those traditional crimes to thinking about focusing on threat and harm and risk and really protecting the public.

"What we are saying is if we are really serious about putting a lot of effort and resource into protecting children for example, that might mean that if you've had a burglary for example and the burglar has fled, that we won't get there as quickly as we've got there in the past.

"Of course we will still want to gather evidence, but we might do it in different ways."

Pressed on whether an officer will always attend a burglary victim's home, she said she was suggesting that there needed to be a "conversation" with the public.

"Our budgets have been cut 25% over the last four years. We are anticipating those sorts of cuts again.

"Over ten years we will have lost about 70,000 posts and I don't think it's possible for us to carry on doing what we've always done because we will just fail the public but also we will cause unacceptable stress amongst our officers and staff."

Derbyshire said: "It sounds like you are saying if your iPad has been nicked from your home, frankly an officer isn't going to be coming round to help you."

Ms Thornton, former chief constable of Thames Valley Police, admitted: "It could be that."

She said she had been burgled before, and described it as an "important" area for police.

However, she added: "I think in terms of the threat to children from sexual offences, from sexual abuse, from online abuse, I think that's what we've got to prioritise."

The officer's comments come amid fierce debate over the future of traditional bobbies on the beat.

Last week in her first major speech since being named chair of the NPCC, which replaced the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), Ms Thornton said Britain's approach to policing must be recast in the wake of "game-changing" cuts to the size of the service and questioned the sustainability of current levels of "visible" patrols.

Shadow policing minister Jack Dromey said: " The revelation that police officers may not be able to attend burglaries reveals a disturbing picture of the police's capability to protect the public and respond to serious crimes.

"By undermining the ability of police forces to respond to serious crimes such as burglary, the Home Secretary is taking a reckless gamble with the safety and security of families."

Lucy Hastings, director of charity Victim Support, said: "As a charity that supports thousands of burglary victims every year, we know that the impact of this crime can be devastating and long lasting.

"Victims tell us that 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.

"It's so important that all victims have access to the practical help and emotional support they may need to cope and recover from crime."

A Government spokesman said: "We are clear that all reported crimes should be taken seriously, investigated thoroughly and, where appropriate, taken through the courts and met with tough sentences."

He said that reforms since 2010 have made it easier for police to do their job by cutting red tape and scrapping unnecessary targets, adding: " The proportion of police officers in front line roles has increased from 89% in 2010 to 92%.

"Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary has consistently shown that forces are successfully meeting the challenge of balancing their books, while protecting the front line. Decisions on the operational deployment of resources are matters for chief constables, in association with police and crime commissioners."

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