More offenders escape justice, official figures show

Justice with Courage: South Yorkshire Police
Justice with Courage: South Yorkshire Police
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Police closed their investigations into more than half of crime reports in South Yorkshire last year without a suspect even being identified, figures from the Home Office reveal.

Police closed their investigations into more than half of crime reports in South Yorkshire last year without a suspect even being identified, figures from the Home Office reveal.

That is on top of an increase in the overall crime rate which saw numbers of offences reported to the force soar by around a third to 121,000 last year, compared to 93,000 only two years previously.

However, while police chiefs accept there have been increases in offences of burglary, robbery and knife crime they say the overall statistics should be treated with “some caution” because changes to the way crimes are recorded mean

incidents previously attributed to anti-social behaviour are now categorised as crimes.

Last year, 56 per cent of investigations were closed without anyone ever being identified as a suspect in South Yorkshire, suggesting many criminals effectively ‘got away with it’. Two years previously, the figure had been 45 per cent.

That situation appears worse, because of the steep increase in crimes recorded alongside a percentage increase in cases where no suspect is found.

While the figure for cases closed with no suspect found in South Yorkshire was 56 per cent last year, it was down to 45 per cent in West Yorkshire, which has similar large urban populations, 42 per cent in North Yorkshire and 41 per cent in Humberside, which has a city, towns and rural areas like South Yorkshire.

However, South Yorkshire Police say the figures may be skewed because of improvements to the accuracy of the way crimes are recorded.

A force spokesman said: “These changed recording practices therefore account for some of the large increase in recorded crime. This is most noticeable in incidents of violent crime where no injuries are sustained and harassment.

“Given that these crime types are less likely to result in suspects identified, this accounts for the increase in such crimes being resulted in the manner recorded.”

The South Yorkshire force has also been ranked as ‘good’ recently by Government inspectors for its record on the prevention of crime, tackling anti social behaviour, investigating crime, reducing re-offending and tackling serious and organised crime.

The new figures have been unearthed by Labour and come after years when police nationally have been trying to come to terms with budget cuts through the austerity years and it has been known for some time that crime rates have been increasing.

The South Yorkshire force has also been affected by now discredited decisions made by its previous chief constable, which included scrapping neighbourhood policing in the name of cost saving.

That left police without their grass-roots contacts which help them identify criminals and keep communities feeling secure.

Since current Chief Constable Stephen Watson took over, he has made changes which include restoring that service, but residents in some areas have seen crime rise in the meantime and believe pulling officers out of rural areas to centralise resources left criminals with an opportunity they were quick to exploit.

The Penistone area of Barnsley has had particular problems and it remains unique in the area in having some neighbourhood staff based at the town’s police station, rather than several miles away with the bulk of their team.