Chief sparks a storm with theft rev­e­la­tions

Sunday Sun - - News -

SE­VERE bud­get cuts means po­lice can no longer re­spond to most shoplift­ing in­ci­dents, one of Bri­tain’s top of­fi­cers has ad­mit­ted.

Win­ton Kee­nen, Northum­bria Po­lice chief con­sta­ble, was ac­cused of send­ing the “wrong mes­sage” to crim­i­anls after he made the star­tling con­fes­sion to a coun­cil meet­ing in Newcastle.

After Newcastle City Coun­cil’s deputy leader Joyce McCarty asked what re­as­sur­ances the chief con­sta­ble could give to small busi­nesses in the city that crimes af­fect­ing them would still be in­ves­ti­gated, he con­firmed the force has changed its pol­icy.

Of­fi­cers will only re­spond to shoplift­ing calls if there is still an of­fender at the scene to ar­rest, if there is CCTV footage, or if the vic­tim is judged to be vul­ner­a­ble.

Northum­bria Po­lice has en­dured the big­gest fi­nan­cial cuts of any force in Eng­land and Wales since 2010, and has lost more than 900 of­fi­cers in that time.

Chief Con­sta­ble Kee­nen said: “Be­ing truth­ful with you, if shoplift­ing takes place and there is no CCTV and no vul­ner­a­bil­ity, usu­ally we won’t send an of­fi­cer.”

He added: “If there is an of­fender at the scene, we will at­tend and ar­rest.”

Fig­ures show that crime has sky­rock­eted by 86% since 2010, in which time the force has seen its fund­ing slashed by £136m.

And while the chief con­sta­ble says that much of that in­crease can be at­trib­uted to bet­ter record­ing prac­tices and in­creased con­fi­dence to re­port crimes, he added that crime is in­deed on the rise - par­tic­u­larly bur­glary and theft.

He asked coun­cil­lors on Wed­nes­day night: “When you walk out of this door, do you feel like crime is 86% worse than it was? Of course it isn’t.”

Over­all, the force’s work­force has been cut by 27% since 2010, in­clud­ing 244 PCSOs and 679 other staff.

Newcastle Lib Dem op­po­si­tion leader Anita Lower said that the new pol­icy on shoplift­ing sent “the wrong mes­sage to crim­i­nals”.

She said: “I do think that they have to be re­al­is­tic about what they can do.

“How­ever, although they may not have a crim­i­nal to ar­rest or ev­i­dence to col­lect, it is still re­as­sur­ing for staff who have been in­tim­i­dated or wor­ried to have po­lice sup­port.

“While it may be that they aren’t go­ing to solve it, you do want to know that some­one is lis­ten­ing.

“It is not about turn­ing up in a scream­ing panda car, but there needs to be some sort of li­ai­son be­tween the po­lice and the vic­tim.

“I also think it sends the wrong mes­sage to crim­i­nals, if they think they can get out of a shop with­out be­ing col­lared.

“It may not be a big crime to the po­lice, but to the vic­tim it is a big thing.”

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