Only 14 Arrests For Every 100 Burglaries In The UK
In 2017, despite our faith in police and investigative technology, only 14 arrests are made for every 100 burglaries in the UK. This shockingly low figure reflects the national average, and in some parts of the country the arrest rate is even lower; there are only seven arrests per 100 burglaries in the West Midlands, for example.
When examining arrest rates for other crimes, things look quite different. There are about 40 arrests for every 100 violent crimes, and 38 arrests for every 100 sexual offences. Given the forensic science and computer intelligence available to police today – the same intelligence that caused the arrest rate for violent crimes to soar – one would expect the burglary arrest rate to be significantly higher.
So what’s the problem with solving burglaries, and why is the arrest rate so low?
A Lack of Evidence & Repeat Offenders
The first issue surrounding burglary relates to the logistics of this crime. Most burglaries occur at night when there are no witnesses around, and burglars usually avoid properties with CCTV. This means the police have very little to work with. Approximately half of all burglaries concern non-domestic property like outbuildings, garages and sheds; these are even less likely to have CCTV or witnesses around. Without information that helps identify the perpetrator, securing arrests, let alone convictions, remains a challenge.
Another factor relating to the logistics of burglary is that many of those arrested are repeat offenders. Singular, one-off burglaries are oddities, and many offenders aren’t caught until they’ve broken into multiple properties. The figures simply don’t allow for arrests for multiple crimes. Thus, a perpetrator may have committed 10 previous burglaries, yet their arrest wouldn’t reflect this and would only relate to one incident.
This idea that repeat offenders cause arrest rates to appear lower than they are is held by many, including former police officer Mike Pannet. “I remember a case in the 1990s when one arrest led us to a further 156. I also arrested one team responsible for 96 burglaries. If you have a spike in a particular type of crime, you can find that one or two individuals are responsible for a huge crime wave.”
Arrests in Big Cities
While we can assume that taking prolific offenders into account would increase the arrest rate, it still won’t elevate it to a rate similar to that of violent or sexual crime. What’s also interesting when considering this is that the arrest rate is usually lower in big cities, despite these areas having the largest police resources. While they have the largest police force in the country, the Metropolitan police solved only six of every 100 burglaries last year. This is half the rate from five years ago, when 12% were solved.
Much has been made recently about police cuts – so could one reason for the sharp fall in arrests be political? Well, that all depends who you ask. The policing spokeswoman for Labour in London, Joanne McCartney, says yes.
“With the rate of reported burglaries falling, freeing up police resources and time, we should be seeing a rise in the number of solved cases. In reality, this hasn’t been the case and this can only be because of government cuts to the police force. With 94% of all domestic burglaries in the capital going unsolved it’s clear London’s police service is already being stretched to the limit.”
While the Metropolitan Police accept these figures, they say the drop is due to a new way the figures are counted. According to the Met, over half of past burglaries recorded as solved were due to people admitting other offences once arrested. The force says there were “integrity problems” with this practice, called taking into consideration (TIC) other offences. In 2011 53% of burglary arrests were due to TICs; today this figure is 8%. It’s reasonable to accept the drop is at least partly due to a major change in police procedure.
A Matter of Priority
Nonetheless, while one must take into account political agenda, it seems that the 20,000 police cuts made since 2010 must play some role in the falling arrest rate, however small. There is no doubt that police and Home Office funds were sharply cut by the Treasury, and this too will play a part. With limited resources and slashed funding, police must prioritise other, more serious crimes at the expense of those that don’t result in physical harm.
Though it’s true that burglaries don’t usually result in physical injury, it’s important to respect the psychological harm it can induce. Mark Castle of Victim Support says: “Burglary not only robs victims of their physical possessions, it can rob people of their sense of security at home as well. [It] can leave people feeling vulnerable, frightened and distressed. It’s important that victims know that reporting a burglary will be taken seriously by the police and that the offence will be thoroughly investigated.”
Unfortunately – and despite their best intentions – the idea that police will take burglaries seriously is not something that can currently be supported. While it’s true that the total number of burglaries committed has fallen, the chances of the offender being caught are very small. If you get burgled, the sad reality is that it’s unlikely your possessions will be returned to you, nor the perpetrator caught. As always, the best protection is prevention.
Having a visible alarm system will significantly reduce your chances of being burgled, and you must be vigilant about setting it. Keep windows and doors locked at all times and ensure there are no easy access points in the back or front of your home. Having a well-lit garden without foliage that can conceal a burglar will also deter the likelihood of break-ins. You can have a look at our range of smart burglar alarms here.