Recorded crime in the UK has reached a 20 year high in the first quarter of 2022, with 6.3 million crimes recorded.
Now this may well relate to changes in policy or willingness to report rather than a general increase in crime. Especially as the ONS crime survey, which doesn’t require the crime to have been reported to the police, doesn’t appear to show an increase in overall crime, at least at first glance.
But something that definitely appears to be the case is that only a tiny proportion of recorded crime results in someone being charged.
Now I usually find myself on the side of wanting to reduce the number of situations police get involved in. Criminalising someone should be a last resort. Police officers seem to be regularly sent in to handle situations that other people would likely be better trained for, including being asked to deal with an increasing number of situations where someone is suffering from a mental health crisis. This is not a good situation for either party concerned.
But where a crime has been committed then that is the domain of the police. Despite not having a particularly optimistic view of the situation, even I was a little shocked to read that only 5.6% of offences reported in 2021-2022 led to a suspect being charged or summonsed.
Unsurprisingly, rape remains one of the rarest crimes to end up with a suspect being charged, with only 1.3% of reported crimes resulting in one.
A Telegraph investigation showed that in 84% of nearly 21,000 neighbourhoods that had reported at least one theft in the last three years, no suspects were ever identified fpr any of them. In 20 neighbourhoods over 100 thefts had been reported, with zero being solved.
No doubt part of this is explainable by the decline of the capabilities of many public services, at least partly thanks to Conservative’s lack of investment or care.
The number of police officers in England and Wales fell by over 20,000 between 2010 and 2019, although this looks as though they increased to narrow the gap a little in 2020. I don’t know the research on to what extent raw police numbers relate to the rate of solving crime, but intuitively presumably there’s a floor at which there’s simply no resources left to carry out thorough investigations. Even holding the numbers steady wouldn’t make sense if there’s an increase in the number of crimes being reported.
There’s probably also indirect effects based on cuts to other services.
Earlier this week the Independent reported that due to a lack of NHS resources the police have now become a surrogate ambulance service in some places. Police personnel and vehicles are being sent to assist, transport and wait with patients who are suffering emergency medical conditions such as heart attacks. More sitting in hospitals waiting for a spare NHS bed for the unlucky patient they’re with presumably entails less time to solve crimes.