More victims reporting rape but detection rate has dropped

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TWO of Yorkshire’s police forces have recorded significant drops in the number of adult rapes they successfully detected, while at the same time receiving more reports of the crime.

West Yorkshire’s detection rate dropped from 20 per cent in 2011/12 to 15 per cent in 2012/13, while Humberside dipped further from 20 per cent down to 13.

Over the same period, West Yorkshire reported a huge surge in recorded adult rapes – up 43 per cent from 327 to 467 – while Humberside reported a more modest increase from 177 to 193.

West Yorkshire Police believe a proportion of the rise may be down to a ‘Savile effect’, with a rise in publicity surrounding the offence and a focus on the area in the wake of the scandal surrounding the presenter prompting more people to come forward.

Rises in reporting are also seen as very welcome as it is widely acknowledged that as many as 85 per cent of rapes are never reported to the police at all. A significant increase is considered a sign of greater confidence in the police.

More concerning is the drop in the detection rate, though a direct correlation with the rise in reports cannot be made because more recent cases are more likely to involve ongoing investigations.

But Det Supt Dave Pervin acknowledged the force could do better. “We invest a lot of resources in this to get it right but what we see in terms of charges and prosecutions, we are not up that league,” he said. “There are clearly some areas where we need to make some improvements.”

One change the force has recently made is ending Operation Topaz, a centralised team investigating rape, and devolving inquiries to district level with the aim of strengthening ownership of cases and enhancing relationships with other public and voluntary sector organisations that work with victims.

From next month, victims will also be able to provide feedback to West Yorkshire Police via a new online survey. West Yorkshire’s review of its approach will include a comparison with neighbouring Greater Manchester (GMP).

Det Supt Pervin said: “GMP are a bit above us in league table terms. They are doing something different. How many people have they got dealing with the volume? It maybe they have put more resources in.”

Humberside Assistant Chief Constable Alan Leaver said: “Humberside Police wants to encourage victims to come forward and report incidents of rape and our figures show that this is the case.

“The force is constantly striving to do more to prosecute perpetrators; focusing on the quality of our investigations and the recovery of forensic evidence.

“However a large proportion of the offences recorded by the force are historical cases – reported more than seven days after the crime was committed – and these are difficult to detect because there is generally no crime scene left to examine, forensic evidence may not exist and CCTV may not be available.”