About 60% of crimes reported to one of the UK’s largest police forces are not fully investigated because of a lack of resources, its chief constable said.
Greater Manchester Police’s Ian Hopkins said budget cuts mean officers have to prioritise more ruthlessly than ever.
He said about 600 offences a day, such as thefts from vehicles, were being “screened out” and not pursued because “we don’t have enough officers”.
The Home Office said it was “committed” to ensuring forces have enough funding.
The number of frontline police officers across England and Wales has fallen over the past decade, while violent crime is rising.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said it had lost about 2,000 officers during that time, down to about 6,200.
“If your life is in danger, you’ve been seriously hurt, we will still turn up,” Mr Hopkins told BBC Radio Manchester.
“If there’s an immediate threat we will be there and we will be there in numbers.
“If your shed’s been broken into, your bike’s stolen, your vehicle’s broken into and there’s no witnesses, there’s no CCTV and there’s no opportunity for forensics, we’ll be screening that out really quickly.
“Your likelihood of a police officer turning up to deal with that is almost non-existent and that’s where the public have really started to feel it. That bit worries me.”
One of Mr Hopkins’ senior officers, Supt Rick Jackson, said screening out crimes was “a necessary evil”.
GMP is not the only force to screen reported crimes on the basis of threat and the likely evidence available.
But Mr Hopkins publicly acknowledging the fact that the majority of crimes reported to his force are dropped is thought to be the first time a chief constable has put a figure on this practice.
Last year, the chief constable of West Midlands Police said budget cuts and falling police numbers meant his force sometimes provided “a poor service”.
“We think the public want us to use our time productively and focus our resources where there is greatest harm and where we can secure a positive outcome,” a National Police Chiefs Council spokesman said.
Police chiefs have expressed concern about the impact of falling officer numbers on “proactive policing that prevents crime, solves problems and helps people feel safe,” he said.
The fall in police numbers is largely the result of changes in central government funding, which is down by almost a third in real terms since 2010.
Mr Hopkins it accounted for about 80% of his budget.
“We’ve been promised a funding formula review and that hasn’t materialised but that needs to happen,” he said.
How many police officers are there?
Frontline officers in England and Wales
Increases in council tax, such as that announced in February, which will pay for an extra 320 GMP police officers, “are never going to give Greater Manchester the resources it needs”, he added.
The new additions will take the force’s strength to about 6,570, compared with 8,219 in 2010.
“The stark reality is that due to years of central government cuts the police simply cannot investigate every crime and have to take difficult decisions about where best to focus their time and resources,” said Greater Manchester Deputy Mayor Bev Hughes, who has responsibility for policing in the city region.
“They – and I – wish this were not necessary but unfortunately it is.”
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Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell said: “It’s clear that the government’s cuts to police funding is having a real impact on the front line, making it extremely difficult for officers to do their jobs effectively and respond to certain types of crime.
“This should be a wake-up call for ministers who should act to increase resources to tackle crime and disorder.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said police funding this financial year would rise by the greatest amount since 2010.
“We recognise the impact crime has on victims and want offenders brought to justice.
“We are committed to ensuring police forces have the resources they need to carry out their vital work,” she said.
You can hear more about this story on BBC Radio Manchester between 23 and 30 April as well as on BBC Sounds.