I’VE just contributed another drop to the deluge of reported crime, or attempts at it, which is swamping our police forces.
It is a telephone scam, with an automated message purporting to be from BT saying there’s a problem with my internet and offering to fix it for a fee.
I’ve registered it with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau’s action line, which has emailed back to say it will be assessed alongside other complaints to establish if there are “viable lines of inquiry” for the police.
Let’s hope there are. The scammers didn’t get a penny out of me, but they might from somebody else, perhaps a vulnerable or elderly person panicked by being told their internet access is about to be cut off, and those responsible need to be caught.
But I know that the chances are they won’t be, and so would any police officer.
Even if there are victims who part with money, the scam will join the 91 per cent of crimes that are unsolved. It should be a matter of shame to the Government that only nine per cent of crime overall is cleared up, falling to four per cent in allegations of rape.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, was absolutely right last week when she branded these figures woeful.
But they aren’t the only dismal statistics on crime. Earlier in the week, figures showed that the number of officers working in murder and serious crime squads had fallen by 28 per cent since 2010
And the National Audit Office has been highly critical of the Government’s strategy to tackle serious and organised crime, involving an estimated 4,500 gangs, for being underfunded.
On Saturday, this newspaper revealed that knife crime in Yorkshire has jumped by 94 per cent in the last eight years – a truly shocking figure.
And whilst the pledge by the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, of millions more in funding for our police forces to tackle this problem is welcome, the question has to be asked how a Conservative government, traditionally the champion of law and order, has allowed matters to come to such a state of affairs.
Because that’s where the blame lies for Britain’s crime problem, with politicians, not frontline officers doing their damnedest to deal with it, or their chief constables trying to cover too many bases with inadequate resources.
Ms Dick has to be careful about what she says. She’s not a politician, but a serving officer, and cannot overtly criticise the Government.
But if she was free to speak bluntly to power, her message would be that which I’ve long heard from senior officers, which amounts to: “You’ve cut police budgets, we don’t have enough money to do our job properly, and now crime has gone up. What exactly did you think would happen as a result of penny-pinching?”
It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to make the deductive link between slashing budgets, fewer officers on the streets as a result, and an increase in crime, which is currently at is highest in 14 years.
The emergence of cyber-crime would have been enough in itself to put the police under enormous pressure. Not only has there been a failure to give them enough extra resources to tackle it, but budgets have been cut overall, down by 18 per cent since 2010 with the number of officers falling by 15 per cent.
These cuts not only have an impact on crimes being committed and solved, but on the ability of the police to deter it.
A former chief constable has told me again and again that there is simply no substitute for having officers out talking to people, getting to know their patches and the habitual criminals on them. That traditional beat policing forges relationships with the public, and is the most basic and effective form of intelligence-gathering.
He’d done that sort of policing himself, coming up through the ranks, and knew the value of hearing what was happening on the ground and building trust with law-abiding residents.
It not only worked in clearing up crime, but stopped it happening in the first place by discouraging criminals who knew there was more chance of being caught.
A police presence also helped to perform the invaluable service to society of spotting young people in danger of being led into criminality and nipping it in the bud.
Serving officers I know are intensely frustrated by the lack of resources, the shortages of staff and the consequent increased pressure on them.
They know that if they were given proper funding, many more crimes would be solved and they could make our communities safer and more peaceful places to live.
Denying them that is one of the gravest accusations that can be levelled at any Government, and this one is guilty as charged.