On the morning of the 17th of October 2016 I was on BBC Radio Wales with presenter Jason Mohammad and former Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston discussing a suggestion from Assistant Chief Constable Phil Kay of Leicestershire Police that preventable burglaries should not be investigated.
On BBC Radio Wales I said:
I think the Assistant Chief Constable has got it badly wrong.
He should be seeing every burglary as an opportunity to catch a burglar.
Of course the police should be investigating, they should be looking for evidence so they can bring someone to court, they can take a burglar off the street. It doesn’t matter if someone has left a window open or had an insecure door, it’s still an opportunity to take a burglar away.
What he seams to have misunderstood is investigating a burglary isn’t a service which police provide to the victim of that crime; it’s something we want the police to do for everybody’s benefit, it’s a way of preventing crime.
If you investigate a burglary and get a burglar to court and to prison then you are preventing future burglaries.
Burglary is a crime which causes huge harm and upset, and that’s where I think the police should be focusing their efforts, on things that cause harm and injuries. It [burglary] makes people feel worried and insecure in their homes, even prompts some people to move house at huge cost and upheaval. One of the top things we want our police to be doing is tackling burglary and of course investigating burglaries is the first step towards doing that.
Jason Mohammad : Why then would Mr Kay come out and say this in public?
Richard Taylor : Well I think, as it has been just mentioned, it is about giving the prevention message particularly to students.
Now I’ve lived in a shared house and actually we’ve been burgled and had lots of laptops taken; and lots of electronic equipment because that’s what you find in a shared house with young people in it, but the problem we had was, essentially we were renting some of the cheapest accommodation available and we had no power to upgrade the doors and windows, it’s not something you can do when you’re renting a house as a group of people.
So we do need to look at prevention, and look at planning policies, there’s a “secured by design” planning concept where you build new homes and new estates with lighting, with gravel, with planting, and everything which helps reduce crime.
Prevention of crime is something for everyone to do. Of course the police should have an input, but is something we all need to do. Insurance companies in particular, they’ve got an interest in preventing crime, they’re one of the reasons I have decent locks and security is it gives me cheaper insurance. It’s something for society as a whole to do.
As always when being interviewed you don’t get to say everything you would have liked to.
Assistant Chief Constable Phil Kay had likened his idea of not investigating burglaries where people had left their homes insecure with the NHS not operating on obese patients. My understanding is when doctors refuse to operate on obese people that’s not a punishment for being obese it’s generally as the surgery wouldn’t be safe for them, or they wouldn’t benefit from it as much as they would if they lost weight first.
If I’m calling for more police time to be spent focusing on burglary then it’s only right I say what I would stop the police from doing. I would reduce the focus on anti-social behaviour – youths gathering, on green spaces, outside shops, playing football. I would reduce the amount of police time spent on non-criminal matters which cause little harm. I have spoken, at public meetings about policing, to many of those who raise concerns about people gathering, and often what they want is an assurance that if there is a problem, if there is criminality, that the police will attend and act appropriately.
Funding drug addiction is one reason people burgle homes; so tackling addiction through education and providing easily accessible health services is one route to preventing burglary we should be putting more effort into.
As for the police entering properties which have been left insecure and leaving notes, or even balloons; I think this kind of thing has the potential to cause alarm, especially where a reasonable idea is badly implemented and the police end up being the ones entering people’s homes without consent and causing harm. The police once put post-cards through every door on a street I lived in saying “this property has been left insecure” which understandably worried and confused particularly elderly residents. I caught up with the officer distributing the material, they were a PCSO, and they claimed not to have read, (and may not have been able to read), the material they were distributing and told me they were just following orders.
Another example of a badly implemented burglary prevention policy is the “cocooning” strategy employed by Cambridgeshire Police. The concept is excellent, houses near those which have been burgled are statistically more likely to be burgled so the idea is the police warn neighbours a burglary has taken place. I’ve had one of these knocks on the door but the officer was utterly confused as to the purpose of the visit and thought they were prevented by the Data Protection Act from giving any information on the burglary. The officer asked if I’d seen anything suspicious given there had been a burglary in the area but wouldn’t say when, where, or how the burglary had taken place. I would like to see a redacted version of the police incident log published so everyone who wants to can rapidly find out about crimes near them and take steps to protect themselves.