Four-in-ten crimes are dropped by the police in Devon and Cornwall
FOUR in ten crimes – more than 36,000 offences – were not investigated by Devon and Cornwall Police last year after it judged there was little chance of finding those responsible.
Crimes "screened out" by the force included more than 11,000 incidents of criminal damage, 4,000 thefts from vehicles and 3,700 burglaries.
Figures showed that of the 91,532 crimes reported to Devon and Cornwall Police, 36,575 – or 40 per cent – weren't deemed worthy of further investigation after an initial assessment.
The rate – which rose from 33.7 per cent in 2010-11 – lead to accusations that the force was trying to reduce its workload because of falling numbers of police officers.
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Sergeant Nigel Rabbitts, branch chairman of the Police Federation, said: "It is just an attempt to drive down demand because of a lack of resources.
"The force is trying to adjust for a lack of police officers to investigate crime otherwise they simply would not be able to cope.
"I think it represents a pretty poor service to the public and I'm sure our members believe they are screening out crimes at source when, with a bit of time and effort, they could be solved."
The force has already lost around 300 officers – from a high of 3,500 – as its strives to meet the four-year, £51 million budget cuts imposed by the Government.
By 2015 some 700 police officers and 500 police staff will have been cut.
In the last two years, the proportion of crimes not deemed worth of "secondary investigation" have fluctuated.
In 2009-10 the rate was 37.2 per cent, or 34,527 crimes, which they dropped to 33.7 per cent, or 29,236 offences, in 2010-11.
Figures released by the force under the Freedom of Information Act for 2011-12 showed officers were least likely to investigate thefts from vehicles where 4,118 of 5,468 offences (75.3 per cent) were screened out.
Next in the table was vehicle interference with 286 crimes (74.5 per cent) followed by "other theft" with 9,477 (63.9 per cent) and criminal damage with 11,050 (61.1 per cent).
They also showed that 331 house burglaries (7.8 per cent) and 3,410 "other burglaries" (60.3 per cent) went without inquiry. Rates were significantly better for more serious offences such as robbery where 480 of 498 crimes (96.4 per cent) were subject to further inquiries and serious assault where 542 of 573 incidents (94.6 per cent) were investigated.
Concerns over the number of crimes going without investigation come after criticism by inspectors that Devon and Cornwall Police were "under-recording" crime in the aftermath of a major reorganisation last May.
But, just weeks after the system was introduced, a review by officers from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) "indicated some cause for concern – specifically the under-recording of crime".
Inspectors also said "considerable numbers of crimes and antisocial behaviour incidents were not being correctly recorded".
A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: "Investigation of a reported crime starts immediately within our call handling centre. Those crimes, where there is viable potential for a positive outcome will be allocated for further investigation.
"Where there is little potential for such an outcome, victims will be informed at the earliest opportunity, offered crime prevention advice and the services of Victim Support."
That assessment, he explained, was carried out by trained members of staff who also researched police databases "to ensure that we do not hold any other data that could identify a line of inquiry".
Cases initially "screened out" could also be reopened if new information became available. They were also added to databases to "identify crime patterns and series".
He added: "Devon and Cornwall Police are committed to continually reviewing our investigation processes to ensure we meet the needs of the public and operate a policy to ensure that we effectively respond to all reports of crime. The local policing teams also provide reassurance visits to victims of crime where it is needed and this could be after a crime has been filed.
"Effective crime assessment is essential as it allows us to prioritise our resources to ensure we deliver the best possible service to the victims of crime."