POLICE in Dorset are now more likely to investigate complex cases of child abuse and cyber-attacks than traditional cases of theft and burglary amid reports the force is failing to identify a suspect in almost half of all crimes reported.

Of the 44,797 crimes reported over the past year, officers have yet to identify a person responsible for 20,641 of the offences - meaning there is no suspect 46 per cent of the time.

In Bournemouth Central - which includes town centre hotspots such as Holdenhurst Road, Old Christchurch Road and Exeter Road - more than 6,600 crimes were reported between January and November this year.

Offenders were dealt with at court in 347 occasions - making up 8.83 per cent of disposals.

However, no further action was required in 2,518 cases - 64.05 per cent of cases reported in the period. Of this number, no suspect was identified in 1,578 cases - 40.14 per cent.

A spokesperson from the force said: "Dorset Police is committed to investigating all reports of crime and in the figures reported the number of cases where no suspect is identified is below the national average - 46 per cent compared to 52 per cent.

"We are continuing to improve our detection rate, which in 2016/17 was ranked in the top quarter nationally - 11th out of 43 forces.

"While we understand the public’s interest in detection rates, it is also important to emphasise that they are not the only measure of investigative performance.

"Although a crime may not have resulted in a criminal justice outcome, it still will have been investigated.

"There are different ways of investigating a crime, including telephone investigation conducted by a call handler, the attendance of a police officer at the scene or by a specialist member of staff, such as a crime scene investigator or a high-tech crime analyst."

Many resolutions to incidents are not recorded as detection, he said.

"This includes safeguarding vulnerable victims, working with partners to respond to community issues or resolve anti-social behaviour, taking an educational approach to first-time lower-level offenders, or organising local restorative justice," he said.

"It is also honest and realistic to recognise that some crimes simply aren’t solvable, as there are no viable lines of enquiry or information given is not detailed enough to pursue and this is clearly the same for all forces across the country.

"Nevertheless, Dorset Police ensures crimes are recorded when allegations are made, so people can have faith in our statistics.

"Dorset Police has been consistently graded as a ‘good’ force in the recent HMIC police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL) inspections for its efforts to keep people safe and reduce crime.

"The complexity of our work is increasing every year. For instance we are more likely to investigate cases of child abuse, sexual crimes or cyber-attacks than the more traditional crimes such as theft and burglary."