Sussex Police’s text messages asking offenders on the run to hand themselves in are ‘surprisingly effective’, it has been revealed.
More than 13,000 people are subject to outstanding arrest warrants across England according to national reports earlier this month, and Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne asked what the local picture was at a performance and accountability meeting last Friday (May 20).
Assistant Chief Constable Laurence Taylor explained that they had 41 first instance warrants, and 501 failure to appear warrants outstanding. Of these 76 are in category A, with crimes including drug trafficking, serious assault, and robbery, 404 in category B, for offences such as theft and criminal damage, and 21 in category C, including being drunk and disorderly as well as minor public order offences.
During the meeting it was revealed that Sussex Police will text offenders or suspects asking them to hand themselves in.
Mr Taylor said: “The first thing we do when we get a warrant is we put it through the police national computer and on to our systems and then the warrant is sent to either a divisional resource or another force to be executed.
“Then there’s a whole raft of activity we undertake with address checks, we text message the offender and ask them to give themselves up, and you’d be surprised how effective that is.
“It goes on our briefing systems, we use the media, we visit places of employment, we target vehicles that they use, we do checks with the Department for Work and Pensions, credit checks, a whole range of activities to try and identify those individuals who are outstanding.”
They also use a warrant enforcement bureau, which will undertake weekly checks of all warrants in the system. From their submission a warrant in category A is checked within two weeks, category B within three weeks, and category C within four weeks, and dependent on what information comes back, the open cases are reviewed at different intervals.
According to Mr Taylor the most serious outstanding warrant Sussex Police currently has is for Joseph Watts who is wanted for charges of attempted murder from 1991 following an assault on his partner.
Mr Taylor added: “We strongly suspect he is either abroad or no longer alive.”
Chief Constable Giles York explained that Sussex Police took successfully executing warrants ‘really seriously’, but noted of a total of 2,011 warrants in 2015 less than five per cent were still live.