NEARLY three-quarters of theft cases in Dorset were closed without police identifying a suspect last year, figures reveal.

They were among over 1 million unsolved cases of theft across England and Wales, which charity Victim Support said undermines the public's confidence in the justice system.

Home Office figures show Dorset Police closed 14,913 theft probes in 2021 – 72% of which had the outcome "investigation complete – no suspect identified".

This was up slightly from 71% in 2020.

A further 5% of all theft cases in Dorset closed with a suspect identified and the victim supporting an investigation but "evidential difficulties prevented further action", while 15% were closed because the victim dropped the case.

And just 5% resulted in a charge or summons – down from 7% the year before.

Across England and Wales, 1 million theft offences were closed without a suspect being found – 77% of all cases.

In London, this was as high as 87%, while in Norfolk it was 57%.

Victim Support said theft can have serious and long-term impacts on victims – robbing them of both their possessions and their sense of safety.

Jeffrey DeMarco, assistant director at the independent charity, added: “The fact that a million cases went unsolved last year seriously undermines victims’ confidence in the criminal justice system.

"Theft is a crime that must always be taken seriously by the police, and work must be undertaken to improve these shockingly low success rates.”

The Liberal Democrat party said its analysis of the Home Office figures shows a "theft epidemic", with over 140,000 car and bike thefts going unsolved by police nationally last year – almost 400 per day.

More than three-quarters of car theft cases and nine in 10 bike thefts were closed without a suspect being identified in 2021.

In Dorset, 63% of cases of stolen motor vehicles were closed with no suspects identified, but other types of cases identified even fewer criminals.

No suspect was found in 93% of cases of thefts from a vehicle, 89% in bike thefts and 86% in vehicle interference.

The National Police Chiefs' Council said forces will prioritise cases where there is a realistic prospect of prosecution, and ensure vulnerable victims have the support they need.

For crimes such as theft, an NPCC spokesman said police focus on targeting prolific offenders, organised crime networks, and ensuring prevention measures are in place.

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Farrell of Dorset Police said: “We fully recognise the significant impact that theft offences can have on victims and we will continue to work hard to tackle these crimes. All crime matters to our communities and we will maintain our focus on providing an outstanding service to the people of Dorset, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

“We understand the public’s interest in detection rates and we all hold an expectation that those committing crime in our communities are bought to justice.

“The detection rates in Dorset are in line with the national trend for theft offences across the country. Nevertheless, Dorset Police is committed to relentlessly pursuing perpetrators of crime.

“As well as striving to gain convictions and ensure our communities feel safe, there are other measures carried out, such as safeguarding vulnerable victims, responding to community issues or resolving anti-social behaviour, which can be equally important. We will always look at the victims needs and wishes at the heart of outcomes.

“With the assistance of the Victims’ Bureau, we also continue to offer crime prevention advice and support to help stop people falling victim to such crimes.

"Every reported crime is the subject of a detailed review and we will always ensure that any possible lines of enquiry are fully explored. Dorset Police has specialist officers who investigate crime series and identify ongoing crime trends.

“We are committed to working with our criminal justice partners to ensure the public has confidence in local justice and that we are not missing an opportunity to proactively tackle criminal behaviour.

“Victims are at the heart of everything we do. Being a victim of crime will be one of the most significant things in an individual’s life. Our commitment is to ensure Dorset becomes one of the safest counties in the country and we will work closer than ever with partners to reduce crime and bring offenders to justice.”