• Sir Peter Fahy says officers have to concentrate on most serious crimes
• Chief Constable likened policy to the NHS treating the most sick
• Critics warn that ignoring most crimes will damage public faith in police

Six out of every ten crimes reported to one of Britain’s biggest police forces are not properly investigated, its chief has admitted.

Greater Manchester’s officers only ‘actively pursue’ criminals in 40 per cent of cases reported to them, its chief constable said, with detectives effectively shelving or ‘screening out’ the rest because there are no witnesses or clues.

It means that more than 106,000 crimes in Greater Manchester were all but given up by the force as lost causes last year.

Justifying the approach, Sir Peter Fahy said officers had to behave like NHS doctors by prioritising cases which were the most serious or likely to end in success.

However, MPs and crime experts last night accused Sir Peter of failing victims of crime and talking ‘bureaucratic gobbledegook’. Defending his force’s approach, Sir Peter said: ‘Most crime is committed by a group of active, persistent offenders who go in and out of the criminal justice system.

‘So in continuing to reduce crime, we balance between investigating offences after they have happened and targeting those who we know are out there every day, looking for criminal opportunities. Some of these we visit twice a day to keep them on their toes.
‘In the same way that the Health Service concentrates on the most serious illnesses and the treatments likely to have most effect, the police have to concentrate on the most serious crimes and those where there are lines of investigation likely to produce evidence of the offender.

‘This translates into about 40 per cent of crime being actively pursued at any time. We look at all crimes to identify patterns of offending and to build the picture of where we need to target patrols. In many crimes there are no witnesses, no CCTV and no forensic opportunities.’

Victims in the shelved cases are given crime numbers so they can pursue insurance claims but otherwise their cases are dropped.

Greater Manchester Police was recently criticised for giving special priority to victims if they are members of ‘alternative subcultures’ such as goths, because this would be classified as a ‘hate crime’.

The practice of ‘screening out’ hard-to-solve crime is also widespread in other parts of the country.

In London, 45 per cent of crimes, including a quarter of robberies, two out of five burglaries and three quarters of car thefts were not properly investigated last year.
In total, 346,397 were screened out at an early stage and 424,091 investigated further.
In Bedfordshire 39 per cent are screened out, while in Warwickshire the figure is 37 per cent, Northamptonshire 33 per cent and Hampshire 24 per cent.

Graham Stringer, a local Labour MP, dismissed Sir Peter’s argument as ‘bureaucratic gobbledegook’.
He said: ‘De-prioritising the majority of crime is bound to lead to a loss of confidence in the police force. Those victims whose crimes aren’t investigated have every right to be angry. They have an expectation, having paid their council tax, that they have a better service from the police force.’

Peter Cuthbertson, of the Centre for Crime Prevention, said: ‘This is an appalling admission. Setting priorities because of a heavy workload is sensible, but to drop a large majority of cases can only increase the workload, spurring on criminals who realise the police won’t even investigate them most of the time.’

Criminologist Dr David Green, of the Civitas think-tank, said: ‘Police do not focus on the most serious incidents – they focus on the ones they can solve quickly to boost their detection rates. They are neglecting the crimes which the public is most concerned about.’

For example, burglary has one of the lowest detection rates of all offences. Last year, it emerged only 15 per cent of burglaries are being solved in Greater Manchester.
Tony Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: ‘Let me be clear that I expect, and the chief constable expects, that with all serious crime no effort will be spared to bring the criminals to justice.

‘What I don’t expect is where there is no evidential trail that the police go through a paper chase to simply tick boxes, but instead use intelligent policing to prevent a recurrence of those types of crime.’

The force said crime had fallen significantly in the past decade despite a £134million cut in its budget.