Police ‘not prioritising fraud’

3 Dec 18

Police forces in England and Wales are failing to prioritise fraud despite it making up almost one third of all crimes.

A study from the Police Foundation think-tank and Perpetuity Research revealed that just 3% of the 277,561 fraud reports received by the police in 2017-18 led to criminal charges.

By comparison, around 13% of reported crime overall results in a charge, summons or community resolution.

Police Foundation director Rick Muir called on the government to “get a grip” on the problem.

“Fraud is a third of all crime but there is no national strategy for dealing with it,” he said. 

“We have a local system of 43 police forces that is not set up to deal with a cross-border crime like fraud. This means that too often victims receive a much worse service from the police than they would get with other types of crime and investigations are carried out by local police forces that are over stretched and lack the specialist skills to investigate fraud.”

The research’s findings highlighted that most fraud cases (78%) involve the perpetrator and victim living in different areas, while 69% of forces rely on non-specialist officers to investigate, despite the fact that specialists have been shown to be more effective.

Digital technology also featured prominently in fraud. More than two third (69%) of fraud cases were cyber enabled, while almost half (43%) involved first contact being made online.

Professor Martin Gill, director of Perpetuity Research, commented: “With the growth of the internet, fraud has changed from a corporate white collar crime to a volume crime affecting millions of victims.

“Fraud is often complex to investigate and the offender and victim may live in different police forces or even different countries. But we found it is far from a victimless crime, and even if the prospect of a conviction is unlikely the police could provide a much better service to the victim.”

The More Than Just A Number report urged the government to produce a national fraud strategy and suggested investigations be handled by dedicated fraud teams rather than local forces.

Systems should also be developed to identify potential vulnerable fraud victims and offer support to those who have been targeted by scammers.

Read CIPFA’s case study on how police, financial institutions and trading standards joined forces to tackle banking fraud in an award-winning collaboration.

  • Vivienne Russell
    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

Did you enjoy this article?