West Yorkshire Police has seen a “significant” fall in victim satisfaction in the year to November, a continuation of a trend previously reported by The Yorkshire Post.
A report by its Force Performance Improvement Unit says a change in the way reports of vehicle crime are dealt with, with an officer not sent to the scene in a high proportion of cases, has contributed to the trend.
But it said: “We have not communicated this change to the community, who expect the police to continue investigations after years of prioritising vehicle crime (particularly theft from motor vehicle offences) and seeing an officer deployed to scenes.”
Police chiefs insist such crimes are still investigated but that the process had been made more efficient by “not deploying costly resources” when there is no forensic evidence.
The most recent data shows that overall victim satisfaction for West Yorkshire Police is at 80.6 per cent, down 5.5 per cent on the previous 12 months.
This means the force has slipped down the table compared with others nationwide, and is below average for similar forces, such as Greater Manchester and West Midlands.
There have been falls in satisfaction relating to violent crime, hate incidents and anti-social behaviour, but the biggest decline relates to theft from vehicles, theft of vehicles and vehicle damage.
West Yorkshire Police says cuts to its manpower have affected its performance, with the number of officers being deployed to vehicle crime reports falling sharply.
It added: “Increases in demand and a reduction in resources had previously restricted the time available for investigators to complete prompt follow up enquiries and full investigations, impacting on victim satisfaction.
“This taken with the other factors above, indicate that keeping people informed is our most challenging area, along with actions taken.”
In recent years, the importance police place on tackling volume crimes such as thefts from cars has fallen, as more pressure is placed to forces to deal with complex cyber-crime and child sexual exploitation cases.
In September, West Yorkshire Police said it does not have the resources to properly investigate many day-to-day crimes because it is spending so much time dealing with an ever-growing number of complex cases.
And in 2015, North Yorkshire Police said it had seen a fall in satisfaction rates among victims of vehicle crime since the launch of a new system where officers are not automatically sent out to all reports from the public.
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner said: “Being the victim of a vehicle crime is a horrible experience and I want to reassure victims that it is still investigated in West Yorkshire.
“The process of investigation has been made more efficient by not deploying costly resources, such as Crime Scene Investigators, to crimes where there is no forensic evidence to support the investigation.
“Each report of vehicle crime is assessed and then the appropriate resources are deployed taking into account the victim’s wishes, the level of evidence at the scene, the urgency and other demand in the area.
“We have been hit by extensive government budgets cuts of over £140m since 2010. West Yorkshire Police have been making efficiencies throughout this period to ensure that the frontline service they provide to our communities is as unaffected as possible.
“Whilst every single on-going efficiency is not communicated to communities as a whole, I expect victims to be kept fully informed and supported.
“West Yorkshire Police are constantly reviewing how they communicate with the public of West Yorkshire and I will keep scrutinising these efforts along with victim satisfaction levels and other indicators to ensure that they deliver the service our communities expect and deserve.”
West Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Angela Williams said: “We take a victim focused approach to all our investigations but have measures in place to ensure we effectively manage demand and work to ensure we make efficient use of all our resources.
“We consider the victim’s wishes in each case and work to ensure we manage people’s expectations in relation to the police response at the outset. We are particularly focused on vulnerable victims and will also work with partner agencies to provide support .
“To say we no longer investigate the majority of vehicle crimes is inaccurate. Our investigation into any crime begins when the victim reports an offence to us. The information is assessed to establish what evidential opportunities are available to support further investigation - obviously we would not deploy resources if there were no available lines of enquiry. This would always be reviewed if new information came to light.”
Tomorrow, councillors will rule on whether the crime commissioner is allowed to raise the police’s share of council tax by 3.43 per cent, the equivalent of £5 for a Band D property.
Explaining the need for such a rise, the highest allowed without a costly referendum, he cites the loss of 2,000 employees since 2010/11 and the cuts of £140m to the force’s funding.
He wrote: “The demand on policing is increasing, with new threats emerging there a more complex workload which requires more resource to tackle it.
“With a changing crime mix the College of Policing has found that the average cost per crime has actually increased by 25 per cent.”