Forget deserving issues and focus on basics, police told

Chief Constable Sara ThorntonImage copyright PA

Police should focus on catching thieves and violent criminals and not incidents where no offence has been committed, a senior officer has said.

Chief Constable Sara Thornton said forces were too stretched to deal with “deserving” issues, such as logging gender-based hate incidents.

Claims against dead people were also taking resources from tackling “today’s crime today”, she told a conference.

She called for a “refocus on core policing”.

Ms Thornton told police chiefs and police and crime commissioners: “We are asked to provide more and more bespoke services that are all desirable – but the simple fact is there are too many desirable and deserving issues.”

She added: “Neither investigating gender-based hate crime or investigating allegations against those who have died are necessarily bad things – I just argue that they cannot be priorities for a service that is over-stretched.”

Ms Thornton, the former head of the Thames Valley force who now chairs the National Police Chiefs’ Council, made reference to Home Office statistics published last week that showed arrests in England and Wales have halved in the last decade.

She also highlighted a review into whether hate crime laws should be extended to cover offences motivated by hostility towards a victim’s sex or age.

Ms Thornton said while “treating misogyny as a hate crime is a concern for some well-organised campaigning organisations”, forces “do not have the resources to do everything”.

She said: “I want us to solve more burglaries and bear down on violence before we make more records of incidents that are not crimes”, adding she hoped the review “takes account of the pressure on forces before suggesting the law is changed”.

Image copyright Getty Images

Since 2010 police chiefs say funding in England and Wales has decreased, in real terms, by nearly a fifth, and there are 20,000 fewer officers.

Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said Ms Thornton’s intervention comes as the government seeks to improve the investigation and reporting of hate crimes.

“She’s trying to send a message back to government saying, ‘look you’re trying to get us to do more and more, well how on earth are we supposed to do all of this and also focus on the core activities,'” he said.

Security Minister Ben Wallace said police should prioritise resources based on the level of harm caused by a crime and forces were free to make these decisions as they saw fit.

However he added hate crime was still important and in some cases could spark other problems like exploitation and community friction.

Speaking at the conference, Home Secretary Sajid Javid acknowledged police were “feeling stretched” but promised forces would have the resources they needed by 2019-2020.

But Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said forces could not do “more with less”.

Police should not have to “pick and choose” between crimes, and if misogyny was made a hate crime the government must provide the funding to tackle it, she added.