DETECTIVES closed three in every four Wiltshire burglary investigations last year having failed to find a suspect, figures show.

Police chiefs said they wanted to get better at catching the criminals who target people’s homes.

The man in charge of the county’s police federation said a lack of officers meant they didn’t have the numbers to investigate matters properly. A national union chief said the situation was soul destroying for constables.

Home Office figures show that of the 1,586 residential burglaries reported to Wiltshire Police in 2018-19, 78 per cent were closed with the outcome listed as “investigation complete – no suspect identified”.

Just 4 per cent of residential burglaries reported to the force last year resulted in someone being charged or summoned to court, in line with the previous year.

In 5 per cent of cases a suspect was identified and the victim supported an investigation but “evidential difficulties prevented further action”, while a further 3 per cent of cases were closed because the victim declined or was unable to support any further investigation.

Raids of garages, sheds and outbuildings are included in the figures, as well as home burglaries. Distraction burglaries, which are recorded as a separate offence, are not included.

Insp Mark Andrews, chairman of rank and file union the Wiltshire Police Federation, said: “It’s essential that we have enough staff to investigate things properly. We want to deal with crimes such as burglaries as quickly as we can and deal with all the evidence available to us.

“But with the pressures of the job it sometimes means we rush from one thing to another and it sometimes means we don’t have the opportunity to explore every angle.

“We used to have burglary teams, primarily focused on dealing with dwelling burglaries.

“Priorities change. It’s not one of the priorities listed by the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable.”

He said extra officers expected as a result of government investment and better training in burglary investigations could mean more suspects were identified.

Wiltshire Police launched the community tasking team in summer 2017. Initially, its attention was focused on burglaries – with former boss Sgt Nigel Kinderman saying it had slashed break-ins by more than 40 per cent.

Since then, its role appears to have become broader and its officers called to support specialist teams on tackling things like County Lines drug dealing.

Det Supt Chris Hanson said the force remained committed to catching burglars.

He said: “Over the last few years Wiltshire Police has seen strong reductions in burglary offences.

“We are committed to stopping burglaries in the first place as we recognise what a terrible effect this crime has on our communities. In fact, Wiltshire is one of the safest counties in the UK and you are far less likely to be a victim of burglary in Wiltshire than almost anywhere else in the country.

“However, we recognise we want to get much better at catching criminals who target people’s homes. Currently we are looking at ways to improve our investigation standards across the force which includes training our frontline response officers to secure and preserve vital evidence at crime scenes.

“But we need the public’s help; we need people to remain vigilant and always call 999 if they see someone they do not recognise acting suspiciously.

"Please look out for your neighbours and lock doors and windows when you leave the house; also, ideally invest in a light timer to ensure your house is not left in darkness. Don’t advertise to burglars that you are not at home.”