West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion said the national charging rate of two in 10 cases was itself “scandalously low”, and said victims should have better feedback about the handling of their cases. He was speaking at a public meeting in Newport.
Statistics available at police.uk show 67 burglaries were reported in the Newport Town Council area between April 2018 and March 2019. In one of these cases the offender was sent to prison. In a further five, a status update or court result is unavailable, and one remains under investigation. No suspect was charged in any of the remaining 60.
Fifty-four cases are labelled as “investigation complete; no suspect identified” and in six more the CPS were “unable to prosecute [the] suspect”.
Mr Campion said: “Unfortunately, and it’s not just a West Mercia issue, it’s very difficult to secure convictions.
He added that the national average was for every 10 burglary reports to result in two charges.
“That’s part of a scandal in this country,” Mr Campion said. “It’s not high enough.”
Safer Neighbourhood Team Inspector Gary Wade said: “One charge doesn’t mean only one arrest.
“Much as it used to be simple – we arrested someone and charged them – it isn’t any more.”
Councillor Tim Nelson, who arranged the meeting, held at the town's Parish Rooms, said: “The information available to the public needs to be richer, so people can draw more accurate conclusions.”
Mr Campion said: “Absolutely. If you don’t feel safe, in terms of the risk of burglary, it doesn’t matter what the statistics say.”
Inspector Wade pointed out that there are limits to the information police can give out due to GDPR.
“Take the example of the three charity shops that have been burgled in Oakengates,” he said.
“I know who’s done it. Of course, I, rightly, can’t tell you that.
“So, whilst I want to tell you things, sometimes I can’t, and then you might think we don’t know at all.”
There has been a significant reduction in the number of burglaries in the town over the past few months, Inspector Wade said.
"At the end of last year the town became a We Don’t Buy Crime area with local residents offered free SmartWater kits to protect their property and valuable items with signs displayed throughout the town warning criminals," he said.
"However, that doesn’t mean we are complacent and our work to tackle burglaries and thefts continues with a lot of work on-going to put criminals out of business in Newport.”
Councillor Peter Scott, mayor of Newport, said: “Recently we’ve had a couple of distraction thefts in the High Street, and criminal damage to vehicles.
“Some have got CCTV and other evidence.
“Talking to people about these, they are telling me ‘No-one has been back, no-one is following up on the CCTV’, for example.
“Can you give us reassurance that there will be the full follow-up so we will know they have tried?”
Mr Campion said: “My view is that, if there is a viable line of investigation, the public expect it to be explored.
“My suggestion would be that, in West Mercia, we aren’t doing the customer service element, the part that says ‘At the moment, X, Y or Z isn’t known, so it’s being parked’.”
He said he had a boiler fixed at his home recently, and received multiple text messages and emails confirming the engineer’s visit and asking for feedback afterwards.
“Unfortunately, the system I inherited at West Mercia Police is not equivalent to that kind of modern system,” he said.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Scott accused Mr Campion of “straight-batting” the question away.
“I’ve learned nothing that I didn’t know before I came here,” he said.