If you want to get off scot-free after committing a crime in London, the police force has given you a blueprint to do that.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service have issued a “crime assessment policy” that has instructed its investigators to pay no mind to what it calls “lower-level” crimes in which there either is no surveillance video, or if the video takes longer than 20 minutes to watch.
“Britain’s biggest police force will not investigate crimes including public order offences, shoplifting and low-level assaults if officers are required to look at CCTV for more than 20 minutes,” according to the U.K. Times:
The Met’s new crime assessment policy, obtained under Freedom of Information, reveals that numerous offences such as vandalism, vehicle crime and fuel theft will not be pursued if the cost of the damage or amount taken is less than £50.
The change comes as police forces across the country, citing budget cuts, have dropped investigations into minor crime such as theft from cars and low-level drug dealing.
Scotland Yard, where officer numbers have fallen to their lowest level in more than a decade, said resource pressure meant that it was forced to abandon some inquiries to focus on serious crime. But the dropping of routine investigations into so-called volume offences that affect tens of thousands of people will alarm victims’ groups and risks emboldening criminals.
According to the policy, crimes that could be ignored include minor traffic infractions where there are no injuries and cases of fraud.
It advises officers to use their judgment when deciding on what crimes to pursue and which to ignore.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons said that the Metropolitan Police have had to work with a tight budget and fewer officers and, with another £400 million expected to be made by 2020, the department has had to decide what to prioritize.
“With the pressure on our resources it is not practical for our officers to spend a considerable amount of time looking into something where, for example, the value of damage or the item stolen is under £50, or the victim is not willing to support a prosecution,” Simmons told The Times. “We need our officers to be focused on serious crime and cases where there is a realistic chance that we will be able to solve it.”
And because of that, many crimes are no longer treated as crimes.
The policy states that officers should proceed if there is a clear CCTV image of the offender, but adds that the crime should be assessed out, in the absence of other leads, if the CCTV exists but is not ready for collection.
The policy adds: “Where the exact time of the offence is not known and an extended period of CCTV which requires viewing is longer than 20 minutes, the crime must be assessed ‘out’.”
It says officers should use their judgment and that there may be situations where the crime would ordinarily be assessed out, but should be pursued, including the theft of government property, theft of war medals or other paraphernalia and theft of medical notes.
The policy came into force in September. The Met said it would allow officers to make proportionate decisions.
Metropolitan Police Federation Chairman Ken Marsh does not expect the numbers of officers joining the force to improve as cuts are made.
“Something has to give and this is what has to give but it is not palatable for my colleagues to be put in this position,” he said. “If someone reports a crime, who are we to be judge and jury on what is investigated? That’s the difficulty for my colleagues.”
And it is a gift for criminals.