Blackpool crooks getting off scot free

Burglaries are going unsolved
Burglaries are going unsolved
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Police solve fewer than one in 20 burglaries and robberies in Blackpool, according to shock new figures.

The town is one of the five worst areas in England and Wales for undetected cases, along with neighbours Preston, say statistics from Police.UK.

Only 4.8 per cent of incidents were cleared up in both areas during 2017, with officers in just three other crime hotspots - one in the Midlands and two in the South East - returning poorer results.

Lancashire Police, the only county force to include two of the worst five areas in the UK, defended its record, but admitted it could do better.

“We accept there is still room for improvement,” said a spokesperson. “We will strive to do the best we can to keep the people of Lancashire safe and feeling safe.”

An investigation by the Sunday Times into national clear-up rates, using figures compiled by Police.UK, shows that just nine per cent of all crimes were solved last year - a drop of more than 50 per cent in the last five years, sparking fears of a crime epidemic.

In the same period police officer numbers fell by more than 9,000 across the UK - a statistic seen by many to be directly linked with a slump in detection rates.

Lancashire has lost more than 800 officers to the Governments austerity cuts. And the latest figures are bound to further fuel the debate over declining frontline numbers.

Clive Grunshaw, the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner said: “Officers in the county work around the clock to prevent crime and catch those who commit offences. However, year on year we are seeing the pressures on the service continue to grow. Lancashire police now receives the highest volume of calls for its population outside of London.

“I know that our police officers want to bring people to justice and I have been assure that Lancashire Constabulary investigates each case reported to them. However, I continue to push the Government to ensure we have the resources we need to support those frontline officers.

“The experience of the victim is at the forefront of everything the police do and I am committed to providing the best possible support to those affected by crime.

“Last year more people than ever before accessed support through Lancashire Victim Services, meaning more victims of crime are receiving the specialised support and reassurance they need.”

According to the latest figures there were 3,118 crimes reported in one area of Blackpool - the town centre - in 2017. Of those 131 were burglaries and 34 robberies. Most did not end in conviction.

In the first four months of this year there were 981 crimes reported in the central part of the town, with eight of them robberies and 25 burglaries.

In April one part of the town centre - on or near Talbot Square - saw 36 crimes reported. Only three of those reached court, while two more resulted in a caution. In 10 cases no suspect was identified, police were unable to prosecute in three more and a further eight are still under investigation.

Nationally the figures are declining. Between 2013 and 2017 the clear-up rate for street robberies fell from nine per cent to four per cent, while the detection rate for burglaries dropped from six per cent to just three per cent.

Officers failed to catch any suspects in more than 1,000 areas where at least 30 crimes had been recorded. This month it has emerged that 90 per cent of knife-point robberies in the Metropolitan police area go unprosecuted.

Out of 436,949 burglaries in 2017, only 12,901 were cleared up and of 73,378 robberies recorded, an offender was arrested and prosecuted in just 3,033 cases.

Lancashire police say prosecution is not necessarily seen as the most appropriate course of action, suggesting the figures could be misleading. We investigate all cases reported to us and make sure that victims get the support they need,” said the spokesperson.

“Victims are at the heart of what we do and we strive to get the best outcome we can for them.

“When it comes to more serious offences such as rape and domestic assault Lancashire Constabulary’s detection rates are in fact much higher than the national average.

“Sometimes in less serious offences a criminal sanction may not be the most appropriate course of action. We use a range of disposals available to us.”

Steve Rothwell, vice chairman of the Lancashire Police Federation, said: “The Federation has been for some time talking about the crisis in CID, with a shortage of detectives and a reluctance of officers wanting to move in to the department.

“We believe it is an operational problem caused by the funding cuts we have endured.”