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Burglary victims 'should use internet to send evidence to police'

Published 07/08/2015

Sara Thornton said burglary victims may be asked to upload photographs or videos on to digital crime reports in the future
Sara Thornton said burglary victims may be asked to upload photographs or videos on to digital crime reports in the future

Burglary victims could send evidence to police over the internet, a senior officer has suggested.

Allowing people to upload photographs or videos on to digital crime reports could speed up the response after break-ins, National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) chair Sara Thornton said.

Last month she sparked controversy by suggesting burglary victims may not always be visited at home as forces prioritise other crimes amid budget cuts.

In a new blog post, Ms Thornton stressed that investigating burglaries "will always be important" but insisted the method and timing of doing so "may have to change", adding: " It is important I am honest with the public about that."

She said burglary rates are at their lowest level for 30 years.

Evidence suggests the two most effective ways of solving the offences are arriving on the scene quickly to catch perpetrators "red-handed" or gathering forensic evidence at the scene, Ms Thornton wrote.

The former Thames Valley Chief Constable said: "If the offenders have fled the scene before the police are called then fingerprints, footwear marks and DNA could be gathered without sending an officer.

"At the very least, a professional scenes of crime officer is the most appropriate person to retrieve such evidence.

"But as we all have access to more technology it is easy to envisage how victims might be able to quickly upload photographs or video on to digital crime reports that could enable officers to be sent to catch the offender much more quickly.

"If we are to catch offenders with stolen property, we know that every minute counts as 'hot property' will be sold or passed on within hours."

Mr Thornton said the police service "will have to do less with more focus" over the coming five years.

She wrote: "Does it make sense to send a uniformed officer to the scene of a burglary to take a statement and look for forensic evidence, then a scenes of crime officer to gather the forensic evidence and finally a detective to investigate the crime?"

She said she had followed the coverage of her previous comments closely.

"Some have interpreted my comments as a lack of compassion for victims of crime. It is quite the opposite - nobody should have their home violated by thieves," Ms Thornton said.

"I want to ensure that precious police resources are focused on what works so that we can be more effective in protecting potential victims.

"As a police officer, I would prefer to maintain police posts so we can provide victim support but I am realistic about future levels of resources, which mean that alternative approaches must be discussed with candour, no matter how difficult that is."

Police could change the way they fulfil the "basic mission" of preventing crime and disorder without risking the safety of the public, Ms Thornton added.

Earlier this week it emerged that Leicestershire Police piloted an approach in which attempted burglaries at even-numbered houses would be fully investigated with forensic teams sent - but this would not happen if the victim lived in an odd-numbered house.

On Thursday Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe insisted his force will continue to investigate and attend break-ins.

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