FRESH questions have been raised over how police deal with burglaries as it emerged four out of five go unsolved and only one in 15 result in a charge or summons.
An analysis of recent Home Office data showed forces in England and Wales closed 80.2 per cent of investigations into break-ins without identifying a suspect in 2014/15 while just 6.6 per cent led to a charge or summons.
The region’s largest force, West Yorkshire, reported marginally better figures than the national average with a suspect identified in 22 per cent of cases and 8 per cent resulting in a charge or summons. Dwelling burglary rates fell 1.4 per cent between 2013/14 and 2014/15.
But Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Clearly these numbers are too low and as a force we are working to improve the way we investigate offences, ID offenders and detect offences.
“One project currently ongoing is a scheme with specialists at Sheffield Hallam University to develop new finger printing technology which has the potential to be a real step change in forensic work. This technology will allow us to gain significantly enhanced information from prints to build a picture of an offender’s prior movements, and is now being trialled at crime scenes.”
A spokesman for the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, said reducing the number of burglaries and improving detection rates were key priorities.
He added: “Burglary rates have recently been falling but that does not mean that the police are in any way complacent and further progress and work is needed. That is why the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner is working to understand the difficulties around burglary detection rates and how best to overcome them.”
West Yorkshire is to continue to send officers to all household burglaries – an issue that has become a bone of contention in recent weeks as forces struggle to cope with swingeing budget cuts. Chief constable Sara Thornton, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, suggested police may not always attend home break-ins and raised the possibility of burglary victims sending evidence to police over the internet.
It also emerged that Leicestershire Police had piloted an approach in which attempted break-ins at houses with odd numbers were not fully investigated.
Nationally, success rates in burglary inquiries appear to be comparatively low. Across all crimes, the proportion of cases closed without a suspect being identified falls to just under half (49 per cent).
The overall proportion of offences leading to a charge or summons is also more than double that for burglaries - 15.5 per cent.
Karen Froggatt, director of the charity Victim Support, said: “Victims of crime need to have confidence that the police are making every effort to catch offenders so, where a case is closed without a suspect being identified, it is important that victims understand the reasons why.
The Home Office said all crimes reported to police should be taken seriously and investigated.
A spokesman added: “Decisions on individual investigations are an operational matter for Chief Constables based on the evidence available to them and investigations can be reopened at any time should further evidence come to light.