How to Come Back From Blunders
As the PC who turns up to your door when you have been burgled/robbed/texted by a ne'er-do-well, I can tell you that the prospects of my snaring a serial rapist by anything other than blind luck are precisely zero.
When a serial rapist strikes, a lot of squads leap to action, and do a lot of very useful analysis. CCTV is downloaded all over the region, suspicious sightings are collated, victims are dealt with by trained specialists. The list of procedures that fall into place are endless. But ultimately what governs whether an arrest will be made is for one of the following conditions to occur:
- Forensics link the offender to the crime.
- CCTV images are released and someone recognises him.
- He uses a car to commit the crime which is registered to him or someone linked to him.
- He blabs about it to someone who reports him.
- The police get there straight after it happens and nab him as he runs away.
- On occasion, a police officer who is aware of the description will spot someone suspicious lurking somewhere odd and nick him on an instinct. This is quite rare.
In terms of successful convictions, you can't beat a combination of witness identification and forensics. Which is why most of the energy in these investigations goes into locating possible CCTV sources/witnesses and scouring the scene/victim for forensics.
Nearly every sex attacker builds up to their violent rapes with progressively more serious offences. Which is why, in 1995, police had the opportunity to take DNA from Kirk Reid which would later link him to a series of attacks before he reached 26 victims. Unfortunately, the early offences of people like these are usually minor, and are therefore dealt with by front-line police officers, because the experienced detective squads are too busy investigating the last serial rapist who never had his DNA taken twelve years ago.
So when the Met tells you it is setting up "a new dedicated rape and serious sexual offence command", don't think for one moment that this will mean experienced detectives dealing with first time sex offenders before they become serial rapists. It will mean that someone somewhere has been appointed the job of sending emails to front-line police officers reminding them that first time sex offenders might be future serial rapists, and how if this happens, it will be their fault.
I'm not singling out the Met: this is the way the government has caused us to work. Boxes need to be ticked, "lessons need to be learned", and appearance is everything. Whether the next serial rapist will be dealt with any better is irrelevant. In fact, it's irrelevant whether the police actually made any mistakes in the first place. As long as a public apology has been issued and one or two uniformed PCs have been disciplined, the whole unpleasant business can be forgotten. Except by the uniformed PCs, who will never really know just what exactly they did wrong.
Down here on the front line, our shoulders are broad.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.