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Croydon police chief slams courts for letting repeat offenders off the hook


PROGRESS made in tackling a sharp rise in robberies is being hampered by a criminal justice system which is failing to send those responsible to prison, a senior police officer has said.

Detective Inspector Brian Hobbs says his officers often have to arrest and charge the same people two or three times before they are given a custodial sentence, and they then go on to re-offend.

He told the Advertiser: "We've had to tell victims that the person has been caught, they've done it before, but they haven't gone to prison for it."

Det Insp Hobbs expressed his frustration while hailing the success of an eight-week operation set up to address an 18 per cent increase in robberies over the last year.

Over the past two months, 280 people have fallen victim to street robberies in Croydon, compared to 312 in the same period in 2012 -slightly above the operation's target.

Officers achieved a "detection" – in which police charge a suspect or issue a caution – in 21 per cent of these cases.

While this means four out of every five robbers escaped justice, if repeated across the year it would make Croydon one of the London's top performing boroughs.

Det Insp Hobbs said: "By arresting the offenders we're doing our bit – but a lot rests with the courts.

"Some of these people have been before the courts many times.

"If you have a young man and it is his first offence, he's very unlikely to be remanded in custody. They are dealt with either by probation or community punishment. They then go back out and commit further offences.

"It is (frustrating) but after being a police officer for 20 years you get used to it. It's the way the criminal justice system works and we have to work within that."

The operation, code-named Zeus, involved a team consisting of two sergeants and 12 constables, who were tasked exclusively with investigating robberies, rather than having to rush away to deal with other 999 calls.

Det Insp Hobbs said: "I took over at Christmas and was asked to look at how we could address the increase in robberies.

"The people committing these offences tend to try to move the stolen property on quickly or swap clothing so they aren't recognised. Being able to respond quickly and spend time with the victim in the immediate aftermath makes all the difference.

"It's not a criticism but the way it used to work meant officers were under a lot of pressure to move on to the next call."

Officers in the dedicated robbery response team have had the time to investigate during these crucial early hours, viewing CCTV footage earlier and taking victims or witnesses for a drive in an attempt to identify the culprit or culprits.

These tactics led to the swift arrest of a 25-year-old accused of robbing a disabled man in a wheelchair as he withdrew money from a cash machine in North End on Wednesday last week.

Croydon has not been allocated any extra manpower for the new team, which is made up of officers usually responsible for tackling rowdiness in the town centre or policing Crystal Palace matches.

Det Insp Hobbs is convinced the early success of Zeus, which has been extended for the foreseeable future, will continue.

He added: "This isn't just about playing around with figures.

"The results we've had over the eight weeks, and the number of arrests that have been made at the time of report, is a good indication that we are doing the right thing."

Croydon police chief slams courts for letting repeat offenders off the hook

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