An inspection of police forces in the United Kingdom has found that crime victims are being "encouraged" – in other words forced – to investigate offences on their own.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) – the official police watchdog – said that the police was increasingly applying a “Do-it-yourself” or DIY approach to high-volume crimes such as car thefts, vandalism and non-residential burglaries.
Victims were being asked to dust for prints, speaking to neighbors and checking CCTV footage – which essentially means officers are washing their hands of thousands of crimes unless the public can provide them with clues.
Stating the cause of what he called an “emerging trend,” the inspector who led the review, Roger Baker, stated that some forces have "almost given up."
However, what was even more alarming about the report was the fact that minor crimes due to the DIY approach were being decriminalized in some parts of the country.
"It's more a mindset, that we no longer deal with these things. And effectively what's happened is a number of crimes are on the verge of being decriminalized," stated Baker, adding, "so it's not the fault of the individual staff; it's a mindset thing that's crept in to policing to say 'we've almost given up'."
It was found that victims were asked to check for CCTV or fingerprints and in some cases even surf sites like eBay for their stolen property.
"When a crime has been committed, it's the job of the police service to go and find out who's done it and bring them to justice,” Baked pointed out, saying the cops are expected to catch people.
President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Sir Hugh Orde responded to the inspection, saying the decision to solve a case over the phone – instead of sending officers – when the victim is not in imminent danger is not an abdication of duty.
"We accept that the public has a natural expectation to have a positive and supportive experience of interacting with the police service when they have been a victim of crime,” he said in a public statement, adding, “the reality of austerity in policing means that forces must ensure that their officers' time is put to best use and this means prioritizing calls.
"In some instances, this may mean that a report of a crime where the victim is not in imminent danger or the offender is not still in the immediate vicinity will be dealt with over the phone or by other means than the deployment of an officer to the scene. This is not an abdication of forces' duty of care to victims."
There are some who would argue that this isn’t an unreasonable policing measure – not at least for the country where it’s being applied. According to the “Nine Principles Of Law Enforcement” laid down by Robert Peel – who served as Britain’s Prime Minister in the 1800s:
“[The police are] To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”
However, this doesn’t mean that the people should be left on their own at the cost of decriminalizing offenses – even if they are petty crimes.
If citizens are to look for clues, how soon will the state make allowances for them to then determine punishments or be involved in prosecution of criminals?
Moreover, such a DIY approach requires a more detailed classification of high-level and low-level offenses.
It also lowers the trust of the citizens in their government – which can possibly lead to even bigger crimes.