- Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen
The state of policing is in a "national crisis" leaving the public at "unacceptable risk", the police watchdog for England and Wales has warned.
Victims are being let down, suspects left untracked and cases shelved as police fail to carry out basic functions, a damning report has revealed.
Suspected terrorists, rapists and murderers are among thousands wanted around the country.
But they are not being caught because there is a shortage of detectives within the force, the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said.
The HMIC also uncovered evidence that:
- Emergency calls were being downgraded in order to justify a slower response and failings in responding to vulnerable victims
- Details of 67,000 suspects had not been placed on the police national computer
- Fewer arrests were being made
- A large number of crimes were effectively "written off"
- In too many cases "insufficient action" was being taken
- Inexperienced officers were left to carry out complex investigations such as rape cases
The series of failings has led the HMIC to take the unprecedented step of issuing a "red flag" warning.
HMIC said it was warning for the first time of a national crisis in the shortage of detectives and investigators in many forces.
This has led to excessive workloads, while complex investigations are being led by those who lacked appropriate experience.
HM Inspector Zoe Billingham warned: "Over the last few years, HMIC has said consistently that police forces were managing well in increasingly difficult circumstances.
"Nonetheless, today, I'm raising a red flag to warn forces of the consequences of what is, to all intents and purposes, an unconscious form of rationing of police services."
The watchdog examined the effectiveness of forces in England and Wales, and said that most provided a largely good service in keeping people safe and preventing crime.
Durham was the only force judged to be "outstanding", 28 forces were rated as "good", 13 "require improvement", but Bedfordshire was declared "inadequate".
Responding to the report's findings, Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Jon Boutcher said:
Policing minister Brandon Lewis welcomed the report's rating of two-thirds of forces as either good or outstanding, as well as improvements in the response to vulnerable people.
"But a number of forces clearly still have more work to do to ensure they are providing the level of service which communities expect and deserve," he said.