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Bedfordshire PEEL 2014

Effectiveness

How well the force tackles crime

Last updated 12/11/2014
Ungraded

Bedfordshire Police requires improvement in reducing crime and preventing offending. The force requires improvement in investigating crime. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.

Bedfordshire Police is a small, very low cost force. It faces some complex policing challenges, with unusually high levels of serious threats and criminality that are not normally dealt with by a force of its size.

Over the last two years, and in response to required budget reductions, police officer numbers have been cut to such a low level that the ability of the force to provide an effective policing service to the public has been put at risk. The new chief constable has recognised this; she is grasping the issue, taking steps to increase officer numbers and to reorganise the force so it is better placed to meet the policing challenges in Bedfordshire. This all takes time, and the changes have yet to take effect.

Currently, HMIC has serious concerns about the force’s ability to reduce crime, investigate offending and provide an effective service to victims.

The lack of effective systems and the right number of appropriately trained police officers and staff in important areas of policing have resulted in fundamental weaknesses in the way the force responds to victims of crime, especially those who are the most vulnerable. Force priorities are not clearly understood by frontline officers. Priorities have a tendency to change when new threats or areas of risk are identified, only compounding the problem. The force’s ability to do preventive work in neighbourhoods is limited; officers and staff are often too stretched to do so – their time is spent reacting to emergencies.

HMIC has had consistent and serious concerns about the service to victims of domestic abuse, and has returned to the force to assess progress a number of times over the last year. The most recent inspection in October 2014 identified very early signs of an improved approach, but these changes need to translate rapidly into an improved service to victims.

Despite all of this, there are a number of positives. The force works well with partners, such as local councils, to identify and support victims of anti-social behaviour. Its strong partnership working also enables the force to tackle those offenders who cause the most crime and disruption to communities. Generally the force is effective in preventing crimes that cause high levels of harm such as gang and gun-related crime, prostitution and other organised criminality. There has been an improvement in victim satisfaction over the last year and the force has invested in a new victim focused approach known as CARE, which sets clear expectations on how staff should engage with victims.

HMIC will revisit Bedfordshire Police by April 2015 to undertake a full diagnostic inspection. This will draw on external expertise, with the aim of identifying any further measures to assist the senior leadership of Bedfordshire Police to improve the service it provides to the public.

Further insights on effectiveness

The domestic abuse inspection found that there were serious failings in the way Bedfordshire responded to victims of domestic abuse. HMIC’s principal concern was the force’s inability to provide a consistently effective response to safeguarding victims. A further domestic abuse inspection in October 2014 found very early signs of an improved approach: there is now a new domestic abuse investigation unit in place, which is responsible for investigating crimes, safeguarding victims and ensuring offenders are brought swiftly to justice; staffing numbers in the unit have increased; and there are now domestic abuse advisors in the force control room to help ensure victims get the right police response from the outset. These organisational changes need to translate rapidly into an improved service to victims.

The custody inspection found that, despite some good individual care for detainees, the lack of improvement in police custody suites in Bedfordshire was disappointing. However, the chief constable immediately put measures in place to address the concerns.

The crime inspection found there was an effective process for identifying and prioritising tackling organised criminal groups operating in the area. There was room for improvement in ensuring that local policing units are involved in strategies to disrupt their activities.

The Strategic Policing Requirement inspection found that Bedfordshire had, or had access to through collaboration with other forces regionally, the necessary capability to tackle terrorism, civil emergency, serious organised crime and public disorder, but not a large-scale cyber incident.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

How effective is the force at reducing crime and preventing offending?

Bedfordshire Police faces some complex policing challenges with unusually high levels of serious threats and criminality that are not normally dealt with by a force of its size.

There are serious weaknesses in the service Bedfordshire Police provides to its public. Crime rates have fallen at a slower rate in Bedfordshire Police than across England and Wales over the past four years.

Victims are less satisfied with the police service in Bedfordshire than across England and Wales as a whole, although satisfaction levels have improved in the last 12 months.

Bedfordshire Police’s priorities are not clearly understood by the workforce and are prone to frequent change as new threats and risks emerge. This lack of clarity means that it is difficult to develop sustainable plans to cut crime.

Partnership working is a real strength in Bedfordshire and there are excellent examples such as how the most prolific offenders are managed to reduce crime and the force’s work with volunteers. Over the last year HMIC has had consistent concerns about the service to victims of domestic abuse, and has returned to the force to assess progress a number of times. The most recent inspection in October 2014 identified very early signs of an improved approach, but these changes need to rapidly translate rapidly into an improved service to victims.

 

Requires improvement
2

How effective is the force at investigating offending?

There are fundamental weaknesses in the way the force identifies risks to victims, from the moment the victim first contacts the police. The force does not identify if a victim of crime is vulnerable, or at especially high risk from harm consistently. It is therefore unable to provide the additional support that a victim may need to keep them safe.

There are serious weaknesses in the force’s approach to managing crime investigations. Uniformed officers have not been properly trained; investigations are not consistently well planned; opportunities to gather the best evidence are missed and supervision is ineffective. The force recognises this and has invested in training for officers over the last 12 months.

The majority of investigations are managed by units that are understaffed and not all officers have the necessary skills. This severely limits the quality of both the investigation and the support to the victim.

The force works well with partners to prevent reoffending.

It is able to identify organised criminal groups operating in the area but there is room for improvement in ensuring that local policing units are involved in disrupting their activities.

 

Requires improvement
3

How effective is the force at tackling anti-social behaviour?

People living in the Bedfordshire Police force area are less likely to suffer from anti-social behaviour than in England and Wales as a whole. There has been a large reduction in the number of anti-social behaviour incidents in the last year.

Staff who take calls about anti-social behaviour have information on previous incidents and are able to identify if the victim is vulnerable. However, there can be unacceptable delays in neighbourhood teams taking action.

Police Community Support Officers deal with anti-social behaviour. They have excellent local knowledge and strong commitment to improving the service to victims. However, they have a heavy workload and sometimes struggle to provide the level of support that a victim needs.

 

Good
4

How effective is the force at protecting those at greatest risk of harm?

The domestic abuse inspection found that there were serious failings in the way Bedfordshire Police responded to victims of domestic abuse. HMIC’s principal concern was the force’s inability to provide a consistently effective response to safeguarding victims. The force’s organisational structures and internal systems for managing domestic abuse were under-resourced and overwhelmed. Domestic abuse is a priority for the force, but this is not translated into an operational reality. During the re-inspection it was found that there had been some improvements but the level of concern for victim safety remained.

Further domestic abuse inspection in October 2014 found very early signs of an improved approach. There is now a new domestic abuse investigation unit in place which is responsible for investigating crimes, safeguarding victims and ensuring offenders are brought swiftly to justice. Staffing numbers in the unit have increased and there are now domestic abuse advisors in the force control room to help ensure victims get the right police response from the outset. These organisational changes now need to translate rapidly into an improved service to victims.

The inspection also reviewed Bedfordshire’s domestic abuse action plan and found the force had provided a comprehensive action plan outlining activity which was in line with the agreed national priorities for forces to improve their response to domestic abuse. Although the action plan did not make direct reference to the HMIC force recommendations, there was evidence that the force had identified action designed to meet the recommendations for improvement.

The custody inspection found that, despite some good individual care for detainees, the lack of improvement in police custody suites in Bedfordshire was disappointing. However, the chief constable immediately put measures in place to address the concerns. Inspectors were pleased to find that staff were skilled at de-escalating some very difficult situations and engaged detainees with sensitivity, and health care was improving. Inspectors were concerned to find that staff said that, although, appropriate adult services were generally reasonable, they deteriorated outside normal office hours, and all staff reported difficulties accessing appropriate services for vulnerable adults.

No graded judgment in 2014

Ungraded
5

How effective is the force at tackling serious, organised and complex crime?

The crime inspection found that the force had an effective way to identify and prioritise dealing with organised crime groups; the force accepts that it cannot tackle them all at any one time and needs to prioritise those presenting greatest risk of harm to communities. The force is attempting to move towards a model where local policing teams take on some responsibility for dealing with lower-risk organised crime groups (OCGs). However, this process is not fully operational. Frontline officers have poor awareness of the OCGs based in their local areas. Intelligence is not always shared with frontline officers and police and community support officers (PCSOs), and their involvement is inconsistent.

The value for money inspection found that Bedfordshire is home to a disproportionately high number of organised crime groups. More work was needed to ensure that demand is managed effectively so that the best use can be made of a comparatively small force of police officers, who face some difficult and complex challenges.

No graded judgment in 2014

Ungraded
6

How effective is the force at meeting its commitments under the Strategic Policing Requirement?

The Strategic Policing Requirement inspection found that the chief constable understood her role as specified in the Strategic Policing Requirement. Bedfordshire Police had assessed the scale and nature of the terrorism, civil emergency, serious organised crime and public disorder threats, but not that of a large-scale cyber incident. This had enabled the force to identify how much resource it needed to manage and respond to these threats with the exception of a large-scale cyber incident. Public order has a nationally agreed requirement for resources and Bedfordshire was able to provide the necessary agreed amount.

The inspection found that Bedfordshire had, or had access to through collaboration with other forces regionally, the necessary capability to tackle terrorism, civil emergency, serious organised crime and public disorder but not a large-scale cyber incident.

Bedfordshire was able to operate effectively with other police forces and emergency services to respond to public disorder and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents.

In Bedfordshire, the inspection found that connectivity with other forces was effective for responding to terrorism, civil emergency, serious organised crime and public disorder, but not large-scale cyber incidents.

No graded judgment in 2014

Ungraded