Cambridgeshire PEEL 2015
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC judges that overall Cambridgeshire Constabulary requires improvement in the way it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The constabulary works very well to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour and protects most victims well, but improvement is needed to ensure the services are consistent and vulnerable people are properly supported. There are good arrangements in place to keep communities safe and tackle the most serious crimes. However, the constabulary needs to improve its approach to ensuring that crime investigations are of a consistently good quality so that it can effectively fight crime and bring more offenders to justice. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so a year-on-year comparison is not possible.
HMIC judges that overall Cambridgeshire Constabulary requires improvement in the way it keeps people safe and reduces crime. It is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. The constabulary is strongly committed to crime prevention, supporting victims, partnership working and keeping communities safe. Officers and staff work well with other organisations to solve problems in neighbourhoods, including intervening early to stop them from escalating. While there are a few areas for improvement, including better use of community resolutions and how the constabulary evaluates ‘what works’, the public can feel confident that the constabulary is working well to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, and keep people safe.
In HMIC’s crime inspection in 2014 we recommended that improvement was needed in the quality and consistency of crime investigations. In this inspection we found that there are still the same areas for improvement. There are inconsistencies in the quality and supervision of initial investigations, which means there is a risk that opportunities to gather the best evidence to bring offenders to justice may be missed. It is disappointing not to see more progress in improving the standard of these initial investigations. However we did find that after the initial response, the quality of subsequent investigations is adequate and the constabulary is good at managing those offenders causing most harm.
Although Cambridgeshire Constabulary generally provides a good service in identifying vulnerable people and responds well to them, there is room for improvement. For example the response to the investigation and safeguarding of domestic abuse victims is a cause of concern to HMIC. The constabulary may not be consistently dealing with domestic abuse offenders in the most appropriate way, to prevent reoffending and protect victims.
The constabulary has a good understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime, and is good at disrupting the activity of organised crime groups. Staff responsible for investigating serious and organised crime are highly skilled and experienced, and the constabulary works alongside the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, which provides specialist skills and resources.
The leadership has strong oversight of the force’s ability to respond to national threats, such as terrorism, national cyber-crime incidents and child sexual abuse.
Its own arrangements for ensuring it can meet its national obligations in this regard (such as planning, testing and exercising) are good.
How effective is the force at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and keeping people safe?
Cambridgeshire Constabulary is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. HMIC made a similar judgment in its crime inspection in 2014 when the constabulary was also judged as good at reducing crime and preventing offending.
Constabulary priorities reflect a commitment to prevention, supporting victims, partnership working and keeping people safe. This commitment is well understood throughout the constabulary, and the constabulary ensures that generally well-trained officers are assigned to local neighbourhoods who focus on preventing problems from occurring or from escalating.
The constabulary has the right systems and processes in place at constabulary and neighbourhood level, alongside a range of powers and tactics, to work together with partner organisations to tackle anti-social behaviour and keep people safe.
The constabulary could improve how it understands, evaluates and shares evidence of ‘what works’, but overall the public can feel confident that the constabulary is working well to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, and keep people safe.
Areas for improvement
- The constabulary should use evidence of ‘what works’ drawn from other forces, academics and partners to continually improve its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour. There should be routine evaluation of tactics and sharing of effective practice.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and managing offenders?
Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders requires improvement. This is a worse position than we found in our 2014 crime inspection when HMIC judged the constabulary as good at investigating crime and managing offenders. Processes for the allocation of complex and non-complex crime work well; but the quality of supervision is not good enough. The constabulary needs to improve its approach to ensuring that crime investigations are of a consistently good quality so that it can effectively fight crime and bring more offenders to justice. Although many cases have an adequate investigation plan, we found inconsistencies in the levels of effective supervision and supervisory involvement in decision making. The constabulary is aware that it needs to improve and has put in place a number of measures to address this. There are also backlogs in the constabulary’s forensic examination of digital evidence from mobile phones and computers, which is causing delays in the investigation of crimes.
Despite very good overall satisfaction rates, the constabulary needs to improve its ‘follow-up’ to ensure victims of crime know how their investigation is progressing. Forensic and digital specialists are used effectively to support investigations, and improvements are being made to the prioritisation process for submissions.
The constabulary identifies vulnerable offenders and makes efforts to divert them from further offending. The constabulary’s processes for working with repeat and dangerous offenders work well.
Areas for improvement
- The constabulary should ensure that there is regular and active supervision of investigations to check quality and progress.
- The constabulary should improve its ability to retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices quickly enough to ensure that investigations are not delayed.
How effective is the force at protecting from harm those who are vulnerable, and supporting victims?
Cambridgeshire Constabulary generally provides a good service in identifying vulnerable people and responds well to them. However, in some areas improvement is needed to ensure the service is consistent and that vulnerable people are protected from harm and kept safe.
Protecting vulnerable people is a priority for the constabulary, and staff understand and share this commitment. The constabulary has invested additional resource in specialist teams to safeguard vulnerable victims, such as domestic abuse and child sexual exploitation victims and missing children. However, the specialist resources are limited and workloads are outstripping the capacity to provide a consistently good response.
We found improvements since last year in dealing with domestic abuse and missing children cases, although there is still room for improvement. Officers attending domestic abuse incidents work well to assess risk and protect victims. However, HMIC is concerned that a lack of positive action, use of police powers and an inconsistent approach to the collection of evidence, is putting vulnerable victims at risk and is undermining their confidence in the police to keep them safe.
The constabulary has made a good start in ensuring that it is well prepared to tackle child sexual exploitation and must now build on this initial approach with its partners.
Cause of concern
The constabulary’s response to the investigation and safeguarding of domestic abuse victims is a cause of concern to the HMIC. The force may not be consistently dealing with domestic abuse offenders in the most appropriate way, to prevent reoffending and protect victims.
The constabulary provides body-worn video cameras to officers, however, these are not mandated specifically for use at domestic abuse incidents and using them is at the discretion of the attending officer. This could lead to missed opportunities for securing valuable evidence. The constabulary is not arresting offenders when it could, specifically in relation to its decision to use voluntary attendance at police stations for suspects of domestic abuse and in relation to breaches of orders where there were powers of arrest available. HMIC found instances where such approaches had led victims to have a loss of confidence in police.
HMIC also found that the capacity within the domestic abuse investigation unit was limited and overstretched. The unit is dealing with all low to high-risk investigations which means that staff are unable to cope with the volume of work adequately. Some staff working in the unit on a short-term secondment have not received any domestic abuse training recently. There appears to be an underuse of domestic violence protection orders as a means of safeguarding victims where a prosecution was not taking place.
To address this cause for concern, HMIC recommends the constabulary should immediately take steps to improve its response in the following areas:
- the use of body-worn video cameras by officers attending incidents of domestic abuse;
- the use of voluntary attendance at police stations for perpetrators of domestic abuse and in cases of breaches of orders;
- the use of domestic violence protection orders to safeguard victims; and
- the capacity within the domestic abuse investigation unit to provide an effective service.
Areas for improvement
- The constabulary should improve its compliance with its duties under the code of practice for victims of crime specifically in relation to victim personal statements.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangement for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities?
Cambridgeshire Constabulary is good at identifying and tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangements for ensuring that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their effectiveness in these areas, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
It is working well with local and national partner organisations and other forces in the region to prevent serious and organised crime. The constabulary has a well-developed understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime across Cambridgeshire, through comprehensive analysis of serious and organised crime at district level. The constabulary is part of an effective multi-agency response to it, including some work to prevent people from becoming involved. It has access to an extensive range of specialist capabilities provided by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, to help it to tackle serious and organised crime.
The constabulary has a well co-ordinated and effective method for managing organised crime groups, there are good processes to identify and disrupt the activities of these criminal groups. There is some good early work with schools to identify vulnerable young people who may be at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime.
The constabulary has robust arrangements in place to satisfy itself that it is fulfilling its national policing responsibilities.
Areas for improvement
- The constabulary should improve the awareness of organised crime groups among neighbourhood teams to ensure that they can reliably identify these groups, collect intelligence and disrupt their activity.