Police hit back over charges

Norfolk's head of forensic police investigations has defended the policy of charging victims of car crime more than £100 to have stolen vehicles checked for clues.

Norfolk's head of forensic police investigations has defended the policy of charging victims of car crime more than £100 to have stolen vehicles checked for clues.

The EDP revealed last week anger at the fees - imposed on all forces by the Home Office - as victims said the trauma of having their vehicle stolen was being made worse by this further penalty.

One Norfolk MP branded the charges, which start at £105, as the privatisation of policing after it emerged failure to pay the “storage” fees to a private firm can result in officers refusing to swab for DNA or dust for fingerprints.

Yesterday Albert Gilbert, head of crime command and forensic investigation at Norfolk police, pledged that the force was committed to investigating all offences. He said that in the case of motor theft evidence could be found more easily in purpose-built facilities run by outside operator Recovery Management Services.

Mr Gilbert said: “Recovered stolen vehicles are a particularly good source of forensic evidence and the force is keen to examine as many vehicles as possible to identify offenders and reduce this particular type of offence.

“The recovery scheme operated by the constabulary is a key factor in optimising forensic recovery as vehicles are examined in purpose-built facilities where they are preserved out of the elements and can be examined in temperature-controlled and well-lit conditions.

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“There is no doubt that the use of these facilities contributes to our success in bringing vehicle crime to justice but we do not restrict examination of vehicles to the recovery scheme garages and recent data shows that 28pc of all recovered stolen vehicles were examined outside of the recovery scheme either at the roadside or at victim's homes or places of work.”

The criticism came to light after Norwich resident Glenn Burrows had his motorbike stolen only for it to be recovered an hour later less than a mile from his home. He incurred a charged of £150 for its recovery.

He said: “I thought I was already paying for the police to investigate crime through my taxes.”

Norfolk police does not benefit financially as all charges go straight to the operator to cover removal and storage costs. However, owners are not able to reclaim their vehicle until the fee is paid and for every day it remains in storage a further charge of £12 is levied.

Victims should be contacted as soon as their vehicle is found and offered the choice of having it taken into storage or recovering it themselves and avoiding the charge. When it is not possible to contact an owner it is automatically taken into storage. If the owner chooses to collect it from the roadside, the theft is less likely to be successfully investigated.

Mr Gilbert pointed out that the force has one of the top performing forensic departments in the country, being rated 'excellent' by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary in its most recent assessment. The county's crime scene investigators also attended a high percentage of reported crime and have a good success rate in identifying offenders.

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