Britain’s largest police force ignores more than a third of all crimes reported after a single phone call with the victim, it was reported last night.
The Metropolitan Police secretly introduced a new policy last year that allows for some crimes to be dismissed without being investigated first.
Among the list are low-level assaults, burglaries and criminal damage, according to the Times.
A report seen by the newspaper has revealed that the police unit assesses just 37 per cent of crimes reported over the phone.
The Met, which looked at 200,000 crime reports over nine months last year, used to send a police officer to every crime if requested by the victim.
The Metropolitan Police secretly introduced a new policy last year that allows for some crimes to be dismissed without being investigated first
However, staff at the Telephone and Digital Investigation Unit [TDIU] now inform the majority of victims that their cases will not be pursued, often due to a lack of CCTV or forensic leads.
The victim is also assessed as ‘out’ – which means they will not be investigated – if they or a witness cannot identify the suspect in the reported offence.
The force is assessing out 80 per cent of reports on average, usually after a single call with the claimant.
The reports that were not pursued account for 29.6 per cent of crimes reported to the Met.
However, the overall number of these dropped cases are likely to be greater, but the force was not able to provide data for other departments.
Last year 1.26 million phone calls to the non-emergency 101 department were abandoned – 50 per cent higher than in 2016.
Callers also had to wait 15 minutes on average to get through to a member of staff, but the Met says this has now reduced to 85 seconds.
The shocking figures come after it was revealed that police dropped nearly a million criminal investiga-tions last year because they could not afford to pursue them – despite already having a suspect. An investigation published in July this year found that 999,263 cases with suspects were abandoned by police in England and Wales last year, the newspaper claimed.
The Metropolitan Police’s policy states that if the crime is involves £50 or less and the suspect is not known then the crime should be assessed ‘out’
It also revealed 40 per cent of violent and sexual offenders could not be pursued, despite detectives having identified a suspect. The figures point to an ever-increasing police crisis, with shrinking budgets and staff cuts cited as the main reason behind abandoned cases. A lack of evidence is also believed to be involved.
The TDIU was launched in April 2017 and aims to provide the public with a wider range of options when reporting crime, as well as reducing demand on response officers allowing them to prioritise the most serious incidents.
Around 30 per cent of the unit’s demand comes through online reporting, with the remaining 70 per cent originating from calls made to MetCC which following careful consideration, are then transferred to the unit.
A list of more than 25 crimes must be investigated, such as domestic violence, firearms offences, hate crime, homicide and sexual assault.
However, low-level offences, including robbery, criminal damage, theft, affray and burglaries where no weapon was carried may all be assessed out under specific circumstances Susan Hall, a Conservative member of the London Assembly, has criticised the assessment process.
‘The Met clearly needs to innovate to become more efficient, but what’s unacceptable is for reporting changes to come at the expense of a responsive police force’, she told the Times.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons, in charge of local policing, said: ‘Every crime reported to us is investigated, whether that’s through face to face contact with an officer or detective or through alternative routes such as the TDIU. But like any organisation we have got a budget to work to, we have demand to meet, and have to make decisions about what we prioritise.
‘We have to take a clear view about what is most important for Londoners in terms of safety. We con-tinually look at ways of reducing demand on response officers and examples include the diversion of calls that do not require a face to face response to our Local Resolution Team or to the TDIU.
‘It is important to highlight that any crime diverted to the TDIU is still dealt with on a case by case basis, and we carry out an assessment of everyone who calls in even if it is a minor vehicle crime. We take into consideration their vulnerability to ensure we provide the most appropriate response. It is also important to note that incidents being investigated by the TDIU can be directed to frontline officers later down the line if substantive leads are identified.
Almost 20,000 shoplifting offences reported to the force were ‘screened out’ – or written off – between September 2017 and the end of August this year
‘We have to admit there are going to be crimes that we are responding differently to than we would have in the past, but it is not to say that because a response team won’t be deployed to an incident that these crimes won’t be investigated in a different way.
‘The TDIU investigates a wide range of crimes including shoplifting, vehicle theft, criminal damage, as-sault, and burglary. All incidents of crime are of the utmost importance, but of course I would much rather our detectives are investigating stabbings and diverting gang members rather than dealing with some of the work which was possible to do when numbers were not so tight.
‘I know this may cause concern to members of the public and perhaps lead to fears that fewer offenc-es will be prosecuted, but I must stress that detection rates for crimes being investigated by the TDIU have not fallen.
‘We cannot do everything in the way we could before, crime is continually changing and adapting, and our numbers are fewer. We have had to realign our resources and invest more in different areas to meet the challenges we are facing. I want to reassure the public that we are here and will do every-thing in our power to help.’