The circumstances around every crime are unique, so the way we investigate each one can vary, but we treat reports of crime seriously and investigate each with impartiality. Every investigation will start with the same basic steps to make sure we gather all the relevant information and keep you informed.

Find out below what happens after you report a crime, when you can expect a crime reference number and how often we’ll contact you.

The investigation process

First, we’ll make sure that we’re the correct police force to investigate the crime you've reported. For example, if it took place in a train station, this would be a matter for British Transport Police (BTP). In this case, we'd send them your report and they'd continue the investigation.

Once we’ve established we’re the correct police force, we’ll issue you with a crime reference number. How quickly we can do this depends on the complexity of the incident and number of other authorities involved.

We’ll then carry out an ‘investigative assessment’. This is where we review all of the information we've gathered and decide whether to investigate your report further.

We base our decision on four key factors:

  • vulnerability of the victim
  • severity of the offence
  • likelihood it can be solved
  • the most effective use of resources 

Next, we'll conduct an initial investigation. This could involve:

  • talking to witnesses
  • assessing the scene of the crime
  • reviewing CCTV or video footage
  • gathering other evidence such as forensic samples
  • searching our intelligence database

Possible outcomes

There are two possible outcomes to an investigative assessment. Once we’ve made a decision, we'll contact you to explain and offer any advice, if needed.

1. Your case will be investigated further

If we decide to look into your case further we’ll assign an investigating officer to you. They’ll act as your single point of contact during the investigation, answering any of your questions and keeping you updated as the case progresses.

If you need to provide a statement, they’ll talk you through it.

2. The investigation will be closed

If we decide to close the investigation, it’s probably because we've completed our initial steps and there are no further leads we can proportionately follow at that time. 

Sometimes we receive new information or discover new evidence, in which case we can reopen the investigation and send you an update.

Regardless of whether this happens, your report and the information we gather as part of the investigation will become a vital part of how we police. It helps decide where and when we use police resources to detect and prevent crime.

In the unlikely event you need to go to court, they’ll introduce you to a member of the Witness Care Unit who'll guide you each step of the way.