Most victims of fraud are not receiving the level of service they deserve, a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has confirmed. Entitled ‘Fraud: Time to Choose’, the document makes clear the choice that needs to be made. Leaders in Government and the police service can either continue to respond to fraud in an inconsistent manner or they can act to ensure that there’s a clearer strategy, less variation in service between forces and better communication with the public.
Matt Parr, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, said: “In a time of competing priorities for the police service, we understand that police leaders have difficult decisions to make. During this inspection, one officer told us that fraud doesn’t ‘bang, bleed or shout’ and, as a result, it isn’t considered a priority. Nonetheless, people are more likely to be victims of fraud than any other crime.”
Parr continued: “The current model of local investigations supported by national functions is the right one, but processes need to be much more efficient and performance must be managed to provide the best possible service that available resources will allow. We did find examples of local investigators providing victims with excellent service, but they’re hampered by the lack of Government or national policing strategies for tackling fraud. This has profound implications in terms of how forces understand roles and responsibilities, how the public is protected from fraud and how victims of fraud are treated by police forces.”
The HMICFRS inspection took place between March and July last year. A total of 11 police forces in England and Wales were visited as well as all nine regional organised crime units, the National Crime Agency, Action Fraud, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and Europol. HMICFRS also interviewed staff involved in implementing the new National Economic Crime Centre.
“Seven of the 11 forces we inspected were unable to provide basic data on the demand fraud places on them. Despite good evidence, some cases were simply being dropped, with staff believing their function was to reduce demand. While we acknowledge the pressures on the police service, this simply cannot be acceptable. We’re calling on the police service to make a choice. Either continue with the current inconsistent approach, which puts members of the public at a high risk of becoming victims of crime, or look at ways to improve that will start to make a difference.”
In conclusion, Parr stated: “The recommendations in this report highlight the areas where police forces and other organisations need to improve. In particular, there needs to be stronger strategic leadership to tackle fraud. Without that leadership the current situation will continue, with fraudsters feeling like they can act with impunity and victims feeling confused and disillusioned. This situation simply has to change.”
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ lead for fraud and cyber crime, Clive Grunshaw PCC, responded: “We know the impact that being a victim of fraud can have, both emotionally as well as financially, and this report highlights that a much more joined-up approach is needed to best tackle what is an evolving threat. Crime is increasingly moving online and fraud is no different. Around half of all crimes now have an online element, which highlights the evolving nature of the threat officers are faced with on a daily basis.”
Grunshaw went on to observe: “A national effort is required involving police forces, partner agencies and Government to ensure that good practice is shared and built upon, while at the same time avoiding the ‘postcode lottery’ we currently have. Prevention must become a key priority such that those who are vulnerable don’t become victims. More strategic working must also be resourced appropriately. We will continue to build a compelling case for increases in central police funding in order to heighten capacity and allow for further investment in crime prevention in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.”