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London's Metropolitan Police force will no longer investigate most 'nonserious' crime

A police officer walks through smoke from a flare, set off by passing demonstrators protesting on Nov. 15, 2017, against government cuts to the education system, in Downing Street in central London. Under a new "crime assessment policy," London's Metropolitan Police will no longer investigate numerous lower-level offenses. (Tolga Akmen/ Getty images

The Times of London is reporting that under a new "crime assessment policy," London's Metropolitan Police ("the Met") will no longer investigate numerous lower-level offenses unless there is clear CCTV video evidence of the crime — and even then, if officers are required to watch more than 20 minutes of CCTV footage, the investigation cannot proceed.

What does the policy say?

According to the policy, which was obtained by the Times under the British equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act, the Met adopted a policy in September that essentially places crimes in three different categories.

In the first category, many "lower level, high volume" offenses will not be investigated at all, and will be required to be automatically "assessed out" by London police. According to the Times' review of the policy, these include (among other things) "lower-level fraud to traffic collisions that do not result in a fatality and assaults with minor injuries ... if the victim does not want to support a police prosecution, if the crime amounts to less than £50 and if no CCTV footage exists."

In the second tier, if the crime is more serious or if the victim wishes to pursue prosecution on a less serious crime, police may investigate, but only if clear CCTV footage of the incident exists, and even then only if the investigation requires them to watch less than 20 minutes of CCTV footage in their investigation.

In the third tier, a list of 25 crimes (including homicide, gun crimes, domestic abuse, and sexual assault) must always be investigated.

The policy does allow for officers to use their discretion to pursue crimes that otherwise would be "assessed out" in unusual circumstances, such as the theft of items of significant items that have low monetary value, like war medals and medical records.

Why is the Met adopting this policy?

In a statement given to the Times, the Met defended the policy change by noting that the department had to make do with "fewer officers and less money," and that the Met had been notified that it would be required to make an additional 400 million pounds in budgetary cuts before 2020.

At the same time, crime in London has risen recently and calls to 999 (the British equivalent of 911) have gone up 10 percent in the last year. Therefore, the Met claims, it had to make the decision to prioritize resources in order to ensure that it has the officer resources to investigate serious crime.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Federation — the police union for Met police — said that the number of police officers in London has fallen from 32,000 last year to 30,000 this year, marking an 11-year low in the size of the London police force.

The Times further notes that police across Britain have stopped investigating minor crimes like theft from cars in response to budget cuts.

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