Police watchdog warns of ‘worrying’ trend

    Report reveals victims of crime fail to support action by the Kent force

    THE police standards watchdog has warned that Kent Police has a ‘significant problem’ with how it works with victims of crime.

    A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary [HMIC] noticed ‘worrying overall trends’ as more than one in five crime investigations (21.9 per cent) failed to progress due to the victim not supporting police action.

    This is the second worst rate in the country and is significantly higher than the national average (13.8 per cent).

    The report also notes a ‘considerable fall in victim satisfaction’ over the last five years (dropping from 88.2 per cent in 2011 to 82.4 per cent in 2016).

    The document also warned that these figures ‘suggest that the force has a significant problem with how it works with and supports victims’.

    When it came to cases involving domestic violence, more than half were assigned this outcome, the fourth worst rate nationwide.

    Often, after a victim first reports a crime they may decide to not follow through with providing a statement. The reasons for which range from victims feeling intimidated by the judicial process to the less serious apathy towards finding the perpetrator.

    Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott’s responded: “HMIC said Kent Police needs to understand why so many crimes are not being progressed, either because the victim does not support police action or because there are difficulties in securing sufficient evidence, and so it is good to see that Kent Police has already begun looking at this issue. HMIC rightly says this is a positive step.”

    Crime rates

    The number of recorded crimes also rose by 7.5 per cent from the previous year. Compared to 2011, it has increased 12.6 per cent, in stark contrast to the nationwide trend, which has seen crime fall by 3.4 per cent.

    Overall, the force was deemed to be providing a ‘good’ service, scoring a consistent three out of four rating in all main categories.

    Despite issues with victim support in cases of domestic violence, the report notes that the force had ‘intervened positively’ to improve their arrest rate in cases of domestic abuse.

    There were 17,642 domestic abuse cases in the year to June 30, 2016, a 41 per cent increase on the previous year. Of these, just under half resulted in an arrest. However, in response to the poor rate, that figure was improved to 67 per cent, between August and October last year.

    Police cuts

    HMIC Lead Inspector Zoe Billingham has warned of the ‘potentially perilous state of British policing’ as 22 per cent cuts to budgets since 2012 have led to a loss of 32,000 personnel nationwide.

    In the last five years, the number of officers and staff at Kent Police has fallen by 408 – more than half of which were frontline officers.

    This is a result of cuts introduced by the coalition government, which saw funding for Kent Police reduced by 19 per cent between 2010-15.

    Another £33.3million must be saved from the force’s £278million budget in the next four years, ‘just to stand still’, according to Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott.

    “I don’t think there is going to be any extra money for police in the next few years, it’s something that we are going to have be very careful of. It’s a big challenge,” he told an audience of Tonbridge business owners last month.