Falling rate of solved domestic abuse, robbery and serious sex offences

Police are appealing for information following a suspected road rage incident Picture: SARAH LUCY BR

Police are appealing for information following a suspected road rage incident Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The rate of unsolved domestic abuse, serious sex offences and robberies is rising across Suffolk – and fewer victims are supporting police investigations.

Assistant Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary, Rachel Kearton Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Assistant Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary, Rachel Kearton Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY - Credit: Suffolk Constabulary

Domestic abuse reports increased almost a third against a three-year average – to 7,255 in 12 months – with the solved rate down 7.7% to just one in six.

A report to the police and crime commissioner’s accountability and performance panel said the trend was largely due to more robust recording practices.

Despite less than half of victims (43%) supporting investigation, Suffolk remained the second best among similarly established forces for court convictions.

The report also revealed an almost 24% rise in serious sexual offences – to 1,722 – with just one in 16 solved. While two thirds of victims supported investigation, the rate dropped almost 5%.

Meanwhile robberies went up 51% to 439 – with more than a third of victims forgoing police investigation and the solved rate falling 6% to one in six.

The report said a change in the performance framework, to ensure domestic abuse recording fell in line with national standards, resulted in 800 extra crimes being recognised.

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Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Rachel Kearton said: “A lot of work has been put into better recording of domestic abuse and developing the confidence of victims to come forward. It’s pleasing to see we have a high conviction rate and compare favourably with similar forces.

“We are not outliers in our ability to engage with victims and every measure is in place to give them a secure outcome. So often, solutions lie outside policing, in a multi-agency approach.

“Clearly, we want to encourage victims to come forward. The solved rate isn’t always best for the victim as conviction isn’t always what they’re after. We have to consider how restorative justice and community resolution are appropriate to some victims.”

Analysis of serious sex offences showed a large number involved the same victim experiencing multiple historic rapes.

The report said 30% of all rape victims disengaged at first contact, including 18% not wanting to relive memories, 7% not thinking it was rape and 5% admitting it did not take place.

It said overall disengagement may be explained by 60% of rapes being reported by a third party. Half of the remaining 40% in the last 12 months await an outcome.

ACC Kearton said the number of victims not supporting police was higher than the force would like, but that conviction rates were the highest in the region.

The falling solved rate was a consequence of additional crimes being recorded, said the report, which showed all but three forces in England and Wales saw robberies rise, due to a number of factors, including high levels of drug activity and rigid adherence to national recording standards.

In April, a profile of Suffolk and Norfolk showed 57% of robbery victims were connected to drugs or other criminality.

“While seeing an increase, the number remains low and compares favourably to the rest of the country,” said ACC Kearton.

“Again, victim engagement is a challenge. More than half of victims are connected to the drugs trade – either buyers or sellers.

“Proactive work is being carried out – particularly with our serious crime disruption team working alongside safer neighbourhood teams to have a complete approach to bringing these numbers down.”

The report said performance depended on available resources to tackle each priority area, and that every effort was being made to maintain front line policing in the current financial climate.

While the force bears the country’s highest case load per officer, it receives one of the lowest government funding grants and raises one of the highest percentages in council tax.

Another report before the panel addressed victim satisfaction and confidence measures prioritised in the PCC’s Police and Crime Plan. It showed marginal falls the percentage of the public who had confidence in the service (75.9%), and agreed police did a good job (59%), dealt with community priorities (55.7%) and treated them fairly (69.6%).

ACC Kearton said the recent deployment of 104 officers into safer neighbourhood teams had received positive feedback and that a victim survey coordinator had been recruited for Norfolk and Suffolk.

Despite rising unsolved rates of certain crimes, public complaints decreased by 22% to 149 in the first two quarters of 2018/19.

PCC Tim Passmore said: “It’s very reassuring to hear, when you consider the work load of officers.

“With recent activity of our urban street gang unit and use of stop-and-search (reaching a peak of 199 in June, with numbers then reducing on a monthly basis), you might expect complaints to increase, but it appears the opposite is true.”

This week, the Home Office announced the largest increase in police funding since 2010 – but more than half will be expected to come from increasing the council tax precept.

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore will have the right to increase the annual share of bills for Band D properties from £12 to £24 – more than first forecast.

Meanwhile, a £153m grant will help plug a shortfall in funding because of changes to pensions, which would reduce the discount rate on future payments, requiring forces to increase contributions from 2019.

Mr Passmore said: “We have to work through this carefully and understand the details. It’s pleasing that the government has plugged the pensions gap for this year.”

But a solution will need to be found for significant cost pressures in the medium to long-term, he added.

“The pensions issue has to be resolved. It won’t go down well if taxpayers are told to top up the scheme.”