‘Postcode lottery’ could see different response from police in Norfolk and Suffolk, claims report

Police Officers. Picture: Ian Burt Police Officers. Picture: Ian Burt

Thursday, September 4, 2014
6:30 AM

A person reporting a crime will receive a different response from police based on a “postcode lottery”, a report claims today.

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While Norfolk police attended 98% of recorded crimes in the year to November 2013, Suffolk police attended just 66% - below the average of 79% across England and Wales, figures show.

The report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) probed all 43 police forces, and looked at three things: crime prevention; investigations and how offenders are brought to justice; and how police time can be used more efficiently, including through use of modern technology.

HMI Roger Baker, who led the inspection, said there were too many discrepancies between forces.

“Police forces have done a good job in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, leading to long-term reductions over the last ten years,” he said. “However, we were concerned to find that a member of the public will receive a different response from the police for the same type of crime or incident, depending on where they live; this sort of postcode lottery has to stop and a consistent approach applied across England and Wales.”

He hoped that the HMIC report would help forces become more efficient and responsive by giving a fuller understanding of how they use their staff.

The report said that Norfolk and Suffolk police were both trialling new technologies, including body-worn cameras, and both used PCSOs “beyond [their] role, powers or training”.

But there were also discrepancies.

These included Suffolk police being unable to identify repeat victimisation with regard to antisocial behaviour, the report claimed.

The wide-ranging report has made 40 recommendations that “significant” improvements are made by the service as a matter of urgency.

Norfolk’s Chief Constable Simon Bailey said he was pleased that inspectors found many strengths to policing in the county, including prevention strategies for rape and murder and ways of tackling prolific offenders.

He noted Norfolk is one of few forces in the country to require an officer to attend all reports of crime.

“This report reflects the hard work of the officers and staff of Norfolk police over recent years to understand our business and focus on the things that really matter. for local communities,” he said.

Stephen Bett, Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said: “Norfolk police is one of the leading forces in demonstrating an evidence-based approach to allocation of resources, which is critical when you are faced with increasing pressures on your budget.

“The force is able to show it understands the demands on its resources and where they need to be deployed to be most effective.

“This puts the force in a good position during difficult times.”

He praised the strong culture of preventative policing, but added he wanted to see more use of mobile technology - as highlighted by inspectors.

Suffolk’s deputy chief constable Gareth Wilson said: “This detailed report is useful in highlighting areas of our business where we are performing well while giving us clear recommendations where we can further improve our service.

“HMIC inspectors found that the Constabulary had some good long-term crime prevention initiatives and that officers and staff were managed well on a daily basis to focus on crime prevention activity.

“However, as noted by the report, at the time of the inspection, the force had no formal overarching document setting out a crime prevention strategy – an issue that has now been addressed.

“The report also notes that Suffolk, along with most other forces, does not attend all reports of crime but assesses each one individually.

“For example, an incident where there was a risk of harm to any individual would result in an immediate police attendance.

“However, a report of minor criminal damage committed several days ago may not require an officer to attend the scene at all, allowing us to concentrate our resources on those investigations where attendance is necessary.

“We will now consider the report and its recommendations in detail.”

Do you have a crime story? Email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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