300,000 criminal investigations ‘abandoned due to budget cuts’

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CUTS to the region’s policing budgets are facing fresh criticism after new figures revealed almost 300,000 cases have been abandoned in the early stages of investigation over the last four years.

The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, shows a steady increase in the number of crimes being “screened-out” by Yorkshire police since 2014, prompting concerns that victims are being deprived of justice.

In West Yorkshire alone, figures show 104,000 investigations were dropped by police last year, including 14,000 reports of burglary, 797 reports of arson and 123 rapes.

And in South Yorkshire, police abandoned more than 22,900 investigations, including 1,000 reports of car theft, 5,500 reports of criminal damage and 9 cases of sexual assault.

Commenting on the results, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron described them as a “stark” reminder of the impact of the long-running police funding squeeze.

“The thin blue line is getting even thinner due to Tory cuts to policing budgets,”he told the Yorkshire Post.

“Visible policing has all but disappeared apart from our town centres, leaving many communities feeling unsafe.

“Behind these figures are thousands of victims who haven’t received justice. This is unacceptable.

“The Police are doing a good job but these figures show starkly that choices are being made.”

Screening is the process by which many forces across the country determine which reported crimes warrant further investigation.

Forces say a common factor in the decision to take no further action is the absence of evidence or a witness.

However, the figures suggest that the number of cases being screened out in the region has increased since 2014 – from 33 percent to 46 percent in West Yorkshire and from 8 percent to 18 percent in South Yorkshire.

This is in line with national trends, and coincides with cuts of more than £200m the region’s policing budgets since 2010.

Overall, the data shows West Yorkshire Police has screened out 245,328 crimes from a total of 621,230 reported between 2014 and February of this year.

Responding to the figures, a spokesman for force stressed that every crime reported to the force is investigated either via telephone or by officer deployment before being assessed for further action.

“If there is no evidence and no witnesses then a crime may well be finalised (screened out) to allow the force to prioritise more serious crimes and to protect vulnerable victims,” they said.

“Over the past few years we have lost £140-million from our budget and have around 1500 fewer officers and staff with £31-million of savings still to be made.

“As a Force we put victims first and we have to prioritise our resources to ensure the vulnerable people in our communities are protected.”

According to the figures, South Yorkshire Police has screened out 53,735 crimes from a total of 327,525 reported over the same period.

Results are not available for North Yorkshire Police, as the force stated it does not use a “screen in and out” process.

Nationally, police forces across Enlgand have dropped early-stage investigations into more than 1.5 million crimes since 2014.This includes reports of murder, manslaughter, child cruelty and blackmail.

Commenting on the figures, a Conservative party source stated that crime rates have fallen in recent years and police funding has been protected.