Investigating crime: following all reasonable lines of enquiry
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The public has a right to expect that, when a crime is committed, their police force will follow up on all reasonable lines of enquiry.
If you’ve seen the news over the Bank Holiday, you’ll have seen ministers talking about new guidance for police forces to follow to ensure that we all take the same approach nationally.
I want to explain to Stoke and Staffordshire residents what this new guidance will mean, so that you can have more confidence in why we make decisions to investigate further, and when we make decisions not to.
The new guidance confirms what we in Staffordshire have always been committed to: that when a crime has happened we will consider all reasonable lines of enquiry and, where feasible, bring the offender to justice.
So in practice what are ‘reasonable lines of enquiry’? I hope the following examples help. It would include checking CCTV or doorbell footage if there are clear timeframes and descriptions of suspects or vehicle registrations. But it wouldn’t mean wading through hours of footage with no clear knowledge of what we are looking for. It would mean following up if there’s blood left at a crime scene with an indication it is from an offender. But cigarette butts found near a crime scene are unlikely to be, as they could have been left by anyone at any time. The use of ‘find my phone’ and other tracking apps would be. But it wouldn’t mean officers trawling the internet looking for stolen items on the off-chance that they could be advertised for sale.
In Staffordshire, we’ve been investing heavily in bringing our officers closer to our communities, having created 10 local policing areas. We’re investing further in ensuring that they have good quality investigative training. Even though I believe our officers to already be applying this approach, I think this new guidance will help make it clearer to the public when we take investigations forward and when we don’t. And that can only be good for public confidence.
We know the public want offenders brought to justice. Equally, we know they wouldn’t want us to commit hours of officer time when there’s no realistic likelihood of identifying an offender.
I want to finish by saying that our officers will continue to do everything we can to make Staffordshire a safer, more confident community. Being clear about when we can investigate, and when we can’t, will be key to this.