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Hard stretched police must focus on 'core' offences and not 'deserving issues' like hate crimes, top officer says

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Police must focus on catching burglars and violent offenders and not incidents where no offence has been committed like hate crimes, a top officer has urged.

Sara Thornton, one of the country’s most senior officers, warned forces are too stretched to tackle all “desirable and deserving” issues such as misogyny reports.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council chairwoman also said she is “unconvinced” it is appropriate to commit significant resources investigating allegations against the dead.

Ms Thornton called for a “refocus on core policing” that is currently “seriously stretched as she opened a joint conference hosted by the NPCC and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

Top officer: Sara Thornton (PA)

She said: “We are asked to provide more and more bespoke services that are all desirable – but the simple fact is there are too many desirable and deserving issues.

“For example, treating misogyny as a hate crime is a concern for some well-organised campaigning organisations.”

It comes after chief constables in July debated whether such allegations should be logged even when no crime is committed.

Ms Thornton said: “I want us to solve more burglaries and bear down on violence before we make more records of incidents that are not crimes.”

She cited historical investigations as “another example of issues that matter very much to some but they undoubtedly take resources away from dealing with today’s crime today”.

The former Thames Valley chief constable said: “While I understand those who have been harmed seek answers, I remain unconvinced that it is appropriate to commit significant resources investigating allegations against those who have died.”

She told the conference in central London that investigating gender-based hate incidents and allegations against those who have died are not “bad things to do”.

But she added: “They just cannot be priorities for a service that is over-stretched.”

On Wednesday the Home Office launched a national campaign to highlight examples of potential hate crimes.

Statistics published earlier this month revealed that, in 2017/18, there were 94,098 hate crime offences recorded by police in England and Wales, an increase of 17 per cent compared with the previous year.

Hate crimes and incidents are defined as those perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic.

Five strands are monitored centrally: race or ethnicity, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, and transgender identity.

The Government has commissioned a review to examine whether laws should be extended to cover offences motivated by hostility towards a victim’s sex or age.

A fierce debate has erupted over police resources after a slew of statistics and critical reports.

The number of arrests in England and Wales has halved in a decade, while recorded crime is rising across a number of categories including homicide and knife-related offences.

Force leaders point to a 19% real-terms decrease in funding and a fall of more than 20,000 in officer numbers since 2010.

Ms Thornton said: “We are seeing fewer police, less activity and more crime.”

Addressing the summit, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said crime has changed “faster than we could ever have anticipated”.

He acknowledged forces are “feeling stretched” and pledged to ensure they have the resources they need in 2019/20.

While noting that extra investment will help, he also called for greater focus on crime prevention.

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