Police vow to visit every crime victim

EVERY single victim of crime in Norfolk will be visited by police by the start of next year as part of a new policy designed to make sure the public know their complaints are being taken seriously.

EVERY single victim of crime in Norfolk will be visited by police by the start of next year as part of a new policy designed to make sure the public know their complaints are being taken seriously.

Chief constable Ian McPherson has set the 100pc target to address the frustrations of callers who in the past may only have had contact with the force over the telephone.

It is a huge undertaking with more than 60,000 recordable crimes in the county each year - the equivalent of 164 each day. Nationally four in tens victims of crime never see a police officer.

Now everybody in the county will be visited in their home by a PC or police community support officer no matter how minor the offence and no matter how likely it is the crime will be solved. The force is also testing a scheme which will see each person allotted a scheduled appointment, meaning they do not have to wait until an officer arrives.

Chief Supt Tony Cherington, who is in charge of frontline policing in Norfolk, said: “When a crime has been committed the public generally want to speak to somebody. Giving out advice over the phone isn't the same as a uniformed officer meeting somebody face-to-face in their own home.

“This doesn't mean we are going soft on solving crime - making criminals' lives difficult remains our top priority. But it is also important that we provide the public with a high level of service.”

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The force aims to reach the 100pc target by April. Although no official statistics currently exist, Mr Cherington said the proportion of victims visited has reached the “high nineties” in recent months.

Norfolk is one of the first police forces in the country to introduce the policy. Essex police are also currently working towards the 100pc target.

Leicestershire chief constable Matt Baggott, the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead spokesman on neighbourhood policing, has called for forces across the country to follow the example.

He said: "I am determined to see a police force that delivers for the public. The public are our best weapon in fighting crime.”

In recent years Norfolk police have been criticised for “screening out” crimes - meaning cases are identified as unsolvable and are not pursued by investigators. In some years the number screened out has exceeded 20,000.

While crimes will continue to be analysed in this way, Mr Cherington said that the move should reassure the public and help safer neighbourhood teams identify trends, provide help in preventing further crimes and understand the needs of each community. There may even be leads that could not be identified over the phone.

He added: “All police forces assess crime reports on a number of criteria including seriousness and solvability.

“We will still use that staged approach but the difference is, while many forces will screen out certain offences over the phone, we will provide all victims with a follow-up visit.

“If you go to a private company and you don't like the service you get, you will take your business elsewhere. People don't have that option with the police.

“This is one way in which we're looking at improving our service and improving public confidence in us as a police force.”

Mr Cherington added that the move has been made possible by the restructuring of Norfolk police which is seeing more bobbies return to the frontline. He also said that crime last month was the lowest it has been in Norfolk since records began. Crime is down 11pc this year, the sixth year in a row that figures have fallen.

“Our crime reduction figures are among the lowest in the country and we are one of the few forces that has achieved consecutive reductions,” Mr Cherington said. “This shows that we take crime fighting seriously but we also have to listen to what the public wants.”