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Revealed: How thousands of burglaries go unsolved

PUBLISHED: 06:30 02 May 2018 | UPDATED: 10:28 02 May 2018

Alex Alexander, plot holder at the Marlpit Community Garden in the shipping container which was broken into and tools were stolen. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Alex Alexander, plot holder at the Marlpit Community Garden in the shipping container which was broken into and tools were stolen. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Police are solving less than one in ten break-ins in some parts of Norfolk, with detection rates differing massively across the county.

Inside the shipping container at the Marlpit Community Garden where the glass on an inside door was smashed and tools were stolen. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYInside the shipping container at the Marlpit Community Garden where the glass on an inside door was smashed and tools were stolen. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The figures have sparked concern amid another rise in burglaries in the region of around 6pc last year, with fears raised a combination of cuts and different priorities have made the region’s forces less effective at solving break-ins.

In 2013 police said they were winning the war against burglars after years of falling crime rates. But the numbers have been going up for the last three years in Norfolk and Suffolk.

In Suffolk it has sparked a police push to get households to put in CCTV and doorbell cameras. Police gave out 50 free doorbell cameras in February to homes in burglary hot spot areas.

Detective Superintendent Andy Smith said they would be giving out more this year.

An image from the CCTV police have released following the burglary at the Palace Cinema in Gorleston in April. Police said they still investigated every burglary. 
Picture: Norfolk policeAn image from the CCTV police have released following the burglary at the Palace Cinema in Gorleston in April. Police said they still investigated every burglary. Picture: Norfolk police

Norfolk police, meanwhile, have reassured residents they still treat burglaries as a priority.

But while Norfolk’s burglary rate remains low - it has the fourth lowest rate for burglaries nationally - those who do break into houses are very likely to get away with it.

Of almost 13,000 break-ins reported to Norfolk police in the last three years, 79pc ended with no suspect being identified.

In just over 200 cases, the suspect was and jailed.

Lakenham Hewett RFC break-in. Club president Andy Pullinger.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYLakenham Hewett RFC break-in. Club president Andy Pullinger. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

In Suffolk the number of investigations ending in failure is even higher at 85pc, according to data from the Police.uk website.

Official figures show just 13pc of burglaries in Suffolk are solved.

Diana Fawcett, from charity Victim Support, said: “Burglary victims can be impacted not only financially but also emotionally – which can in turn affect their health.

“What’s vitally important is that all victims have access to the support they need to help them cope and recover.”

Lakenham Hewett RFC break-in.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYLakenham Hewett RFC break-in. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

At the start of this month burglars broke in to a shipping container at the community garden in Marlpit, Norwich, stealing around £300 worth of tools and a £500 lawnmower.

But manager of the garden Mahesh Pant said police had not visited.

“In the past they used to come around and take photographs or do forensics,” he said.

A police spokesman said they spoke to the victim to let him know there were no “investigative opportunities” such as forensics, witnesses or suspects.

Assistant chief constable Paul Sanford. Picture: ArchantAssistant chief constable Paul Sanford. Picture: Archant

Mr Pant said the neighbourhood used to have a PCSO who visited the garden and had dealt with previous crimes there, but the PCSO was made redundant the week before the break-in.

Norfolk police is going through a restructure at the moment with all PCSOs being laid off.

Norfolk and Suffolk have among the lowest number of neighbourhood officers per person in the country, according to recent figures.

But a police spokesman said it was not fair to link the low rate of burglaries solved with its low number of neighbourhood officers.

They added: “The main factors which determine the likelihood of a crime being solved relates to available evidence, as opposed to the availability of neighbourhood officers.”

But MP for Norwich South, Labour’s Clive Lewis accused the Government, Conservative MPs and Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner of being the “three wise monkeys of police cuts”.

“They see no evil in the £30m taken from the Norfolk Constabulary budget since 2010,” he said. “They hear nothing when their own party demands another £10m of cuts by 2020. And they’re silent about the almost 150 Norfolk police staff lost since 2013 and the 150 PCSOs they’ve taken off our streets”, he said.

In a burglary at Lakenham Rugby Club at the beginning of April police did visit, took photos and looked for fingerprints.

The club was broken into twice in three days with burglars stealing money and alcohol.

Club president Andy Pullinger said the investigation into the 
first break-in was closed when forensics could not find any fingerprints but the investigation into the second break-in was still open.

The figures from the Police.Uk website show police are best at solving burglaries in areas which have a lot of break-ins such as in Yarmouth and Norwich centre.

But they are less effective in suburbs and rural areas.

In Yarmouth North only four in 10 investigations ended with no suspect identified.

But in places like Trowse and Springwood ward in King’s Lynn, which have very few burglaries, almost all burglaries resulted in police taking no further action after not identifying a suspect.

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Sanford said one of the reasons for solve rates being so low were “limited evidential opportunities”.

“All incidents of burglaries are unacceptable and our commitment to investigate and solve these offences remains the same regardless of the area you live in,” he said.

But explaining the difference in solve rates for urban and rural areas, he said: “Crimes that take place in a more densely populated area tend to have increased evidential opportunities in terms of CCTV, witnesses and house to house enquiries.”

•Will police investigate if your house gets burgled?

Police in Norfolk and Suffolk said that despite the low detection rates they still investigate every burglary reported.

But the extent of the investigation will depend on what evidence is available, such as witnesses, CCTV and forensics.

“Each case will be assessed on its own merits,” a Norfolk police spokesman said.

Norfolk police’s policy is to attend every house burglary.

Forensic teams will also attend if “evidential opportunities” are identified, police said.

They added: “Residential burglaries will be scrutinised on a daily basis by a senior detective and appropriate investigative resources will be allocated.

“This is not always a detective but in those cases where there is a chance of a positive outcome, a detective constable will pick up the case.”

•How we got the figures

We looked at every burglary reported to Norfolk and Suffolk Police from March 2015 to February 2018, which are recorded on the police.uk website.

The figures do not include every burglary which has taken place and police warned about looking at the figures in isolation.

But they do give the outcome and location of almost 13,000 break-ins in Norfolk and 12,000 in Suffolk.

By looking at the outcome and location we could then see where the burglary hotspots were and how good police were at solving them.

The figures showed big differences between small neighbourhoods in the burglary rate and detection rate.

All crime data on the website is provided by police forces but it does not replace national figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS latest figures showed a 9pc increase nationally in burglaries in 2017 and a 6pc increase in Norfolk and Suffolk.

•Do you have a story you think we should be investigating? Like our new Facebook page Archant Investigations Unit here and get in touch.

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