The National Police Chief’s Council announced today that forces in England and Wales have now pledged to attend all home burglaries.
Chief Constable Stephen Watson shares his thoughts on why attending all burglaries is simply good police work and welcomes other forces to a commitment that Greater Manchester Police made in July 2021.
Chief Constable Stephen Watson QPM, Greater Manchester Police
Burglary is one of the most invasive, intrusive and hurtful crimes that anybody can face.
Somebody who has been burgled will often feel a strong sense of personal attack - that their home, their personal space and place of safety has been violated; a home in which they may not be able to afford to put right any damage or replace any stolen items; a place where they no longer feel safe to live.
We all have an absolute right to the sanctity of our own homes and to expect others to respect what should be an invisible space. When our homes are breached by despicable criminals, we, the police, are duty bound to do all that we can to respond effectively and to pursue justice on behalf of victims.
Over recent years, crimes such as burglary have too often come to be referred to as “low level” crime, something people should probably just learn to live with, that a busy police force like ours - for reasons real or imagined - simply couldn't (or shouldn't) manage to attend whenever a burglary occurred.
These are comments and sentiments that you will no longer hear within Greater Manchester Police.
Fundamentally, policing remains a simple business. We are here to take the fight to the criminals, to keep people and their families safe from those who would do them harm, and to work with others to solve problems in our communities in a way which either prevents harm or offending altogether or, at the very least, reduces the incidence of the same.
I reject the assertion that we cannot attend all reports of domestic burglary and it is why, in July 2021, I publicly committed to residents of Greater Manchester that their police force would respond to each and every report we receive. Minimum response involves the physical attendance of a police officer and, as appropriate, might additionally involve visits from forensic crime scene investigators and specialist detective officers.
This is a commitment to all so it doesn't matter what your economic status is or which district you live in; there will be no “postcode lottery” here.
Our attending each and every burglary marks a significant change from the position taken by GMP in recent years. The purpose of the initiative is of course to bring more offenders to justice and we still have much to do. Under Operation Castle however, we are making rapid improvements across the board. We have invested in additional training for officers and staff to improve their investigative skills, established dedicated burglary teams in our districts and improved our response model. We are recording all reports accurately, we have dramatically improved our speed of response and we have increased the number of burglars arrested across Greater Manchester by over 70%.
Our detection rates are still not at the levels required but they are increasing solidly and sustainably. The highest performing districts in Greater Manchester, such as Rochdale, are now achieving performance levels amongst the highest in the country. Since the inception of Operation Castle our officers in Rochdale alone have arrested over 200 burglars, obtained over 300 charges and have assisted the courts to impose prison sentences which exceed 75 years with at least 12 prolific offenders currently on remand.
In one particularly concerning case, a man called Lee Fennessey, was sentenced to 11 years in prison back in July for a series of 15 burglaries targeting elderly residents across Rochdale, Oldham and Lancashire, with violence used against some victims, the eldest being 96 years old.
If you speak to any police officer, chances are they will tell you that there is no better feeling than locking up a burglar.
Across Greater Manchester we have managed to sustain this high level of attendance at domestic burglaries whilst maintaining our focus on tackling organised crime, fraud and other crime types that are traditionally labelled as “serious”; as well as responding more expertly to a wide range of demanding incidents.
Fundamentally we are so focused on burglary because it is called police work!