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We’re being abandoned by the police

Bobbies off the beat in Hot Fuzz: all too familiar?

A friend recently had seven bikes stolen from her shed, says Janice Turner in The Times. When she phoned the police, they gave her a “crime reference number”. But when she later found one of the bikes and asked if they wanted to take fingerprints, “no one came”. That’s only the latest crime on her street. Her camper van has been torched; neighbours have been burgled; expensive deliveries stolen from her doorstep. This isn’t a rough neighbourhood – it’s “leafy” Dulwich in south London, “where Boris Johnson is apparently house hunting”. Sick of being ignored, my friend’s neighbours are clubbing together to install CCTV.

“A sense of being abandoned by the police is spreading.” Almost 70% of Britons think officers have “given up investigating theft, vandalism or even burglary”. People report stolen items not with any expectation of getting them back, but to initiate an insurance claim – even though GPS makes it easier than ever to track where your stuff ends up. Less than 7% of burglaries now result in a charge, and the clear-up rate is even worse for theft (4%) and stolen cars (1%). Recorded crime is at a 20-year high; the criminal justice system “on the brink of collapse”. It’s the poor that suffer most – they can’t afford insurance or fancy CCTV systems. But the problems afflict us all. “We’re in dangerous territory when criminals feel untouchable.”