Police pledge to pursue any reasonable lead to solve more crime
Police forces have committed to pursuing all leads where there is a reasonable chance it could result in catching a perpetrator and solving a crime
The ‘back-to-basics’ approach will mean police forces across England and Wales are expected to take advantage of footage made available by CCTV, vehicle dashcams, phones and smart doorbells to help identify suspects and place them at the scene of the crime.
While the pledge applies to all crimes, the Home Secretary expects police and crime commissioners to hold forces to account for a drastic change in the way police approach crimes like phone theft, car theft, shoplifting and criminal damage to bring more offenders to justice and restore public confidence in local policing.
This will mean that if there is tangible evidence, such as details of a website where a victim’s stolen goods appear, the police should request information to help identify the suspect. Alternatively, if a stolen mobile phone can be tracked with an app and there is a reasonable chance the police could recover it, then action should be taken.
This comes as the government confirms that over 50,000 drug tests for cocaine and opiates have been conducted on suspects arrested in the past year, with over half of these coming back positive. This testing is crucial for preventing further crime, as offenders are diverted towards life-changing intervention and treatment services. We are also expanding the powers for police to test for specified Class B drugs, such as cannabis and ketamine when parliamentary time allows.
In a bid to clean up communities across the country, the Home Secretary also encourages officers to make full, legitimate use of their stop and search powers to get drugs off the streets.
Today’s announcement builds on work the government is doing to cut crime and build stronger communities, with over 20,000 additional police officers on our streets and overall crime cut since 2010.
The government has also given the police the powers and resources they need to keep our streets safe. As well as putting more officers into our communities than ever before, police in England and Wales have received record levels of investment, with up to £17.2 billion this year.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said:
"The police have made progress in preventing crime across the country with neighbourhood offences like burglary, robbery and vehicle theft down by 51% since 2010.
"Despite this success, since I became Home Secretary I’ve heard too many accounts from victims where police simply haven’t acted on helpful leads because crimes such as phone and car thefts are seen as less important – that’s unacceptable. It has damaged people’s confidence in policing.
"Criminals must have no place to hide. The police’s commitment today is a huge step forward towards delivering the victim-focused, common-sense policing the public deserve."
The commitment today has been worked up and agreed by the Home Office, in tandem with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing, and is formally defined as an agreement to pursue all ‘reasonable lines of enquiry’ in relation to all crime types.
It builds on the previous commitment from all police forces to attend the scene of all home burglaries, to ensure better evidence gathering and make victims feel safer, which is now being actioned across the country.
The Home Secretary has also asked for plans from police and crime commissioners and chief constables on how they intend to improve visibility in communities to make our streets safer and improve confidence in local policing.
Minister for Crime and Policing Chris Philp said:
"There is no such thing as a minor crime. All crimes, where there is a reasonable lead to follow up should be investigated. This will keep the public safe, catch more criminals and avoid disorder escalating. Crimes such as shoplifting, phone theft, car theft and burglary profoundly affect business and the public, and all merit proper investigation where there are leads to follow.
"There are now record numbers of police officers and record funding that has gone into policing, including for more patrols in hotspot areas of crime, and to make neighbourhoods more secure with better street lighting and CCTV. Along with camera images, combined with facial recognition, this will mean many more offenders can be brought to justice.
"I welcome this recognition and agreement from the policing sector that more can – and will – be done to solve crime. I believe it will improve performance and transform the public’s perception of their local force – as we have seen in Greater Manchester already."
There are already forces who are making commitments and delivering improvements to boost investigations and give the police more opportunities to catch offenders, for example Greater Manchester Police. They have made significant changes to the service they provide to the public, including an impressive 44% year on year increase in the number of charges recorded by the force.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson said:
"The provision of additional officers; improved leadership; and an efficient but sustainable plan which focusses on the very basics of the job, has equipped Greater Manchester Police to significantly improve the policing services delivered to the communities within Greater Manchester and, crucially, victims of crime."
Additionally, an increased focus on vehicle crime in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in the first three months of 2023 led to 59 arrests and the recovery of 100 stolen vehicles, and MPS data suggests an 8% reduction in vehicle theft in the same period.
To support police forces to deliver on their commitment, the College of Policing have drafted new guidelines and have already updated the policing manual on best practice for investigating crime to support effective decision-making by officers (the Authorised Professional Practice).
The College of Policing is also developing specific good practice guidance on conducting residential burglary investigations. Setting the standard in respect of the initial response and the subsequent investigation, it emphasises the importance of attending the scene as early as possible to maximise evidence for the investigation, and this concept should be carried through to all crime types.
The public expect to get a timely response from the police which is why the Home Secretary and Policing Minister have today written to Chiefs and PCCs setting out their expectation for all emergency 999 calls to the police to be answered in less than 10 seconds and for all non-emergency contact, whether 101 or online, to be responded to as quickly as possible.
Operational decisions will always be a matter for individual police chiefs and their force, and it is right that each incident is looked at on a case-by-case basis, on the evidence available and in proportion to the crime.