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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 00:02 GMT
Police 'solving too few crimes'
Burglaries generic
The report said too few criminals are being brought to justice
Police are not solving enough crimes despite the government's three-year police reform programme, MPs have said.

The detection rate is still too low in England and Wales, according to a report by the all-party Commons Home Affairs Select Committee.

Only 19% of reported crimes lead to an offender being punished by the courts, but the Home Office aims to raise the figure to 25% by 2008, the MPs noted.

The Home Office said its reforms had led to a 30% reduction in crime.

The committee report said: "Some of the original aspirations expressed when the police reform process was launched have not yet been met - in particular, an improvement in the crime detection rate.

'Must adapt'

"It is still a matter for concern that too few criminals are brought to justice."

The Home Office, in response to the committee's report, said that while the chance of being a victim of crime was the lowest since 1981, more work needed to be done.

"Like all key public services, the police cannot be immune from further change and continuous improvement.

"It must adapt to meet new challenges," a Home Office spokesman said.

He highlighted improvements including "record" staffing of over 140,000 officers, and that there were more than 5,000 community support officers (CSOs) with funding of 340m to pay for 24,000 by 2007-8.

We recognise that victims deserve to see offenders brought to justice for crimes committed
Chris Fox
Association of Chief Police Officers

"A great deal of work is under way to help support forces in improving their performance in detecting crime, including targeted support to specific forces.

"We are also aware that detection rates vary by crime type, for example the murder detection rate for 2003-4 was 92% and violent crime 47%," the Home Office spokesman added.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said it took "all crime seriously" and was confident police were "catching and convicting the right people".

"We recognise that victims deserve to see offenders brought to justice for crimes committed," Acpo President Chris Fox said.

"However, whilst many criminals caught by the police have committed more than one offence, a successful prosecution and conviction will assist in the overall prevention of crime, even where the other offences committed may not be brought to a satisfactory conclusion."

Training 'squeezed'

The committee members also said ministers were wrong to include time officers spend on paperwork in the definition of "front-line policing".

They called for a change to the definition.

MPs also warned that evidence suggested spending on police training had been "squeezed".

"This is likely to prove a false economy," they concluded.

Use of on-the-spot fines had succeeded in freeing up police time to return to the beat, but was only "at the margins" of what could eventually be achieved, the report said.

'Acute need'

"The real potential for saving police time and resources lies in introducing more effective information technology," it went on.

The report noted an "acute need" for a computer system which would allow police, courts and the Crown Prosecution Service to communicate electronically.

"Police officers and staff are entangled in paperwork because they do not have the IT systems they need and want," it stated.

"Redressing this deficiency should be a Home Office priority."

Mr Fox, from Acpo, said that if reduced bureaucracy allowed more police on the streets they needed to be deployed strategically.

"More effective than having simply greater numbers on the streets is having the right people and the right numbers deployed in the right places, where the public want it and where they need it," he said.

Why MPs are calling for further improvements in policing

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