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More than 34,000 criminal investigations were dropped on the day they were reported to the Metropolitan Police last year, figures reveal.

This is more than double the 13,019 investigations ‘screened out’ within 24 hours in 2016.

Critics say it means huge numbers of criminals – including rapists, thugs and burglars – have escaped justice and are free on the streets.

Data obtained by The Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act also shows that 18,093 inquiries were dropped within 24 hours between January and May this year, including 32 allegations of sexual offences. Almost 50 investigations of sex crimes were screened out last year, up from 20 in 2016.

Under the controversial ‘screening out’ policy, resources are directed at cases where there is a prospect of catching an offender, for example if there are witnesses or CCTV evidence.

Retired officer Chris Hobbs told The Guardian: ‘It’s not just sexual offences, but all offences – what used to be regarded as a serious offences, burglary for example – they have now slipped right down the ladder.’

Last week figures revealed hundreds of thousands of recorded crimes are never solved. In 57 per cent of robberies and around 14 per cent of violent offences or sexual attacks, a perpetrator was not identified.

Four out of five burglaries, three-quarters of vehicle thefts and half of shoplifting cases were closed without a suspect being established. For some offences such as criminal damage, arson and theft, as many as seven in ten investigations were shut without anyone being caught, according to Home Office data.

In total, 47.5 per cent of crimes were written off as ‘no suspect identified’.

In May it was reported police are abandoning inquiries into thousands of crimes without sending an officer to see the victim. Chief constables are setting up ‘phone investigation’ teams that screen out hundreds of reported offences before they reach detectives.

One force aims to close down more than half of the crime report calls it receives, according to the BBC’s Panorama.

The Metropolitan Police’s new guidelines around ‘screening out’ crimes were first announced last October.

The force said it had to save £400million by 2020 and it was ‘not practical’ to investigate crimes such as shoplifting and criminal damage.

A spokesman told The Guardian: ‘The Met deals with nearly 800,000 allegations of crime every year. Investigations must be proportionate and timely – to utilise the best possible evidential opportunities.’

Just because an investigation has been completed ‘this does not necessarily mean [it] is over. For example, forensic evidence … may result in investigations being reopened.’

However, although statistics for so-called ‘Hate Crimes’ were not immediately available, it is firmly believed that NO investigations were ceased or curtailed prematurely!