Cleveland PEEL 2015
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Overall, Cleveland Police requires improvement in the way it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force investigates crime and manages offenders effectively. The force works very well to tackle serious and organised crime. Cleveland Police protects vulnerable people well but the ways in which it initially identifies and responds to vulnerable people requires improvement. How it prevents crime and anti-social behaviour also requires improvement. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so a year-on-year comparison is not possible.
Cleveland Police is committed to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. The chief constable and the police and crime commissioner have made a commitment to retain a neighbourhood presence for the future, for those victims and communities that need it most.
Historically, the force has experienced high levels of anti-social behaviour incidents. The force recognises its position amongst other forces and the impact of the renewed focus on the quality and compliance of crime recording.
The force’s ability to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour is limited, but, when crimes occur, it investigates them well and provides support to victims.
The force uses appropriately trained officers and staff and approved practice when investigating crime, gathering evidence and building cases to ensure offenders are brought to justice. However, there is room for improvement as some, more serious, crimes are being dealt with by frontline officers.
Our assessment of how Cleveland Police deals with vulnerable victims found some good work such as effective protection for domestic abuse victims. But we also found that the initial identification of vulnerable victims and the initial response is not always as robust and timely as it could be. The force works well with partners to safeguard vulnerable victims, although arrangements could be enhanced through a multi-agency safeguarding hub arrangement.
The force has a good understanding of the threat and risk posed to the communities of Cleveland by serious and organised crime. It has well established processes to identify and disrupt the activities of organised crime groups, and works well with partner organisations to prevent re-offending.
Cleveland Police has effective arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities. It is collaborating with other forces and organisations to enhance its capacity to respond to national threats in the future.
How effective is the force at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and keeping people safe?
Cleveland Police demonstrates a clear and strong commitment to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. Historically, the force has experienced high levels of anti-social behaviour incidents. During summer 2015, the force’s recorded crime levels were the highest they had been for four years. Some of this increase is because of a renewed focus by the force on the quality and compliance of crime recording.
The force has skilled, committed and able staff who want to keep the people of Cleveland safe and reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. We found effective operations to do this in place at a force level, and saw that neighbourhood staff are doing some good problem-solving work. However, resources are stretched when trying to meet the high levels of overall demand that the force experiences. Neighbourhood officers cannot spend enough time on prevention and problem-solving activity to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.
Cleveland Police has undertaken an evaluation of anti-social behaviour with a local university. It recognises that it must improve how it deals with anti-social behaviour. The force has undertaken a comprehensive review of neighbourhoods, which makes recommendations around the future of neighbourhood policing. Cleveland Police intends to have fully implemented these by April 2016.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour is a routine part of neighbourhood policing activity.
- The force should adopt a structured and consistent problem-solving process across the force to enable it to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour more effectively.
- The force 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 at a local level.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and managing offenders?
Cleveland Police’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders is generally good. The force is dealing with a large numbers of registered sex offenders, but has begun to address this situation with a review to rebalance its staffing and caseloads.
The force has effective processes for the initial investigation and allocation of crime and its investigations are good. Investigative staff are well trained and properly qualified. The force has good forensic support through a multi-force collaboration.
Officers keep victims informed during an investigation and the force uses victim contact contracts to establish how and when the victim would like to be contacted.
The force is increasing its capacity to gather digital evidence, which should improve the speed of its examination of digital devices.
Cleveland Police and its partner organisations use a range of methods to identify vulnerable offenders. Together they are working to try to divert them from additional and more serious offending.
The force works well with partners to identify, monitor and manage repeat, sexual and dangerous offenders. However, the number of registered sex offenders is affecting adversely the force’s ability to manage the volume within the current level of resourcing.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all crimes are allocated promptly to investigators with the appropriate skills, accreditation and support to investigate them to a good standard.
- The force 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?
Protecting those who are vulnerable and supporting victims are priorities for Cleveland Police. However, HMIC found that there are some important areas requiring improvement in the way in which the force provides these services.
There are weaknesses at the very first point of contact when people telephone the police. The way the force deals with calls means that the correct level of vulnerability of the victim may not be fully identified straightaway and therefore the risks not properly assessed and the right initial response not provided.
The force has invested in providing skilled, specialist teams to safeguard and protect victims, but the force does not respond to all non-urgent incidents within the required timescale. This means that some vulnerable victims may not be getting the speed of response they need to keep them safe.
HMIC found that there are some areas for improvement in the way in which the force records missing and absent children. The force has, however, made a good start in developing its approach to tackling child sexual exploitation. It responds well to victims of domestic abuse and has made good progress in improving these services since HMIC’s last inspection.
Cause of concern
The force’s identification and response to vulnerable victims is a cause of concern to HMIC. There are inconsistencies in the quality of service to vulnerable victims at the first point of contact with the police, which means that their particular needs may not be initially recognised and fully met.
Call-handlers must ensure they spend sufficient time speaking to the person reporting an incident to gain a thorough understanding of the nature of the vulnerability of the victim, offer immediate safeguarding advice, and provide reassurance. Although the force is aware of this concern and is currently in negotiations with the service provider to improve the quality of the initial identification of vulnerability, presently some victims may not be adequately safeguarded.
HMIC also found that the force does not respond to all incidents within the required timescale. This means that some vulnerable victims may not receive a sufficiently rapid response to keep them safe. In addition, the force does not yet fully understand the level of repeat incidents.
To address this cause for concern the force should immediately take steps to improve its identification of and response to vulnerable victims by ensuring that:
- staff effectively assess and identify vulnerable victims at initial point of contact; and
- staff respond in a timely manner to incidents identified as requiring police attendance.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve its response to missing children by ensuring that the force and partners can readily use information in a timely manner to safeguard children; that it carries out risk assessments and investigations to an appropriate standard; and that it introduces processes to ensure that it supervises properly risk assessment and investigations.
- The force should continue to develop its response to child sexual exploitation specifically in relation to ensuring officers and staff record consistently their risk assessments.
- The force should further improve the way it works with partner organisations in relation to sharing information and safeguarding victims by continuing to work to establish a multi-agency safeguarding hub.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangement for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities?
Cleveland Police is good at identifying and understanding the threat and risk posed to its communities by serious and organised crime. Although it is yet to complete a local profile of serious and organised crime, this is at an advanced stage with completion due by autumn 2015.
The force is good at tackling serious and organised crime groups in its area. It has a clear governance structure, which includes a bi-monthly organised crime group meeting, where it reviews progress.
Cleveland Police could enhance its ability to prevent serious and organised crime through making the best use of the range of disruption tactics available. A recently established local organised crime partnership board is aimed to assist with disruption tactics with partner organisations, and further the sharing of intelligence with partners about more serious and organised crime.
The force has the necessary arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities. It is ensuring its future ability to respond to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents, and disaster victim identification through collaboration with other forces.
This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their effectiveness at tackling serious and organised crime, including a force’s arrangements for ensuring that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
Areas for improvement
- The force should complete its serious and organised crime local profile including relevant data from partner agencies, and ensure that it has a local partnership structure in place with responsibility for tackling serious and organised crime.