A Home Office minster has admitted “there’s more we can do” to follow up on reported crimes and said the bureaucracy involved in recording certain incidents is “wasting” police time.
Chris Philp insisted Government plans to cut “unnecessary red tape” will see the police focusing less on rude but non-threatening messages and more on investigating other offences.
The move is part of a wider set of rule changes to how forces record reported incidents, aimed at slashing their “bureaucratic burden”.
Touring broadcast studios on Thursday, Mr Philp said the shake-up will see officers dedicating less time to incidents in which people had merely been offended, such as those dealt with under the Malicious Communications Act.
Mr Philps said the data is “deeply concerning” and more officers will be recruited to help tackle crime on the streets.
“I’m concerned, deeply concerned, by those figures as a Londoner. As you say, it probably applies in other cities as well. That’s precisely why we’re recruiting all these extra police officers locally, so once they’re all through their training, being able to protect the streets to prevent these crimes in the first place and then follow up afterwards.”
Asked if he thinks police follow-ups now are sufficient, Mr Philp replied: “I think there’s more we can do, to be absolutely honest.”
He added: “One of the challenges I’ll be putting to policing is to say with all the extra police officers, with the removal of these bureaucratic burdens, which are worth nearly half-a-million hours a year, you know, I expect and the public expect obviously more visible policing which is preventative and it reassures the public and I expect more to be done on follow-up.
“So that’s what I’m expecting from policing in return for the investment we’ve made and for removing some of these bureaucratic burdens which have, frankly, been wasting their time.”
Announcing the changes, Mr Philp said: “Victims must always be at the centre of our response to crime. Listening to forces and cutting unnecessary red tape will mean police officers can focus on solving crime and delivering justice for victims, as well as preventing it from happening in the first place.
“We are confident that we will reach our target to have the most police officers in history. With less unnecessary admin, we want them to be our most effective police officers in history too.”
The Home Office said the changes will save police time by no longer recording cases of messages that may offend someone or where a public disturbance occurred but has been resolved. But this will require sign-off by a supervisor, such as a police sergeant.
Officers should be on the streets investigating crimes such as burglary rather than investigating comments made online, the department said.
And it said the police will be empowered to consider if such issues should be dealt with by social media companies instead.
But the Home Office said police will continue to pursue all offences involved.
It said another change will make it easier to cancel the recording of a crime where there is enough evidence none was committed, which would also depend on appropriate sign-off.
The Government said the changes will come into effect in the coming weeks and follow recommendations from a review by the NPCC lead for crime data integrity, Chris Rowley.
Chairman of the NPCC, Gavin Stephenson, said: “Police officers must be totally focused on keeping people safe and ensuring they feel safe.
“We want to provide the best possible policing to the public and the work of the police productivity review is aimed at removing barriers and improving effectiveness.
“These equate to the equivalent of attendance at 220,000 domestic abuse incidents, 270,000 burglaries or almost 740,000 antisocial behaviour incidents.
“Any move to free up our frontline to serve our communities is welcome.”
Chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Marc Jones, said: “As the public’s representatives to policing, we have long called for changes to the way crime is recorded to ensure it is more transparent and less bureaucratic. We welcome these changes.”
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael MP said: “This announcement is simply too little, too late. People are losing confidence in the police because of Conservative mismanagement.”
He added: “The Conservatives are failing to tackle crime and people up and down the country know this announcement will make little difference to that.”