North Wales PEEL 2015
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
North Wales Police is judged to require improvement at keeping people safe and reducing crime.
The force is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. However in relation to how the force investigates crime, offender management is inconsistent and officers are sometimes assigned crimes to investigate that are beyond their level of training. Also, a more accurate assessment of risk when people first make contact with the force would ensure a better service is provided to victims. The force tackles serious and organised crime effectively in many respects although there is scope for improvement in some specific areas. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so a year-on-year comparison is not possible.
The priority to prevent crime and to keep people safe is commonly understood across the whole force. The force works effectively with partners in achieving these aims; the North Wales Police Victims Care Centre, which brings together partners to provide enhanced support to victims, is a good example.
Some minor improvements are needed in how North Wales Police assesses the impact of tactics used to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour; nevertheless the force uses a broad range of interventions to resolve local problems and is supported well by partner service providers.
North Wales Police’s approach to investigating crime has some shortcomings. The force’s policy for allocating crime to investigators is not clearly understood by the workforce. Furthermore we found examples of frontline officers undertaking investigations that were beyond their level of training and experience, including high-risk domestic abuse cases. This means that the service to victims might fall short of the required standard.
Additionally the integrated offender management scheme, which manages persistent offenders, has a number of problems that limit its effectiveness. These include uncertainty about which offenders to include in the scheme, fragmented support from partner organisations and a lack of personalised plans for each client.
North Wales Police has a developing understanding of serious and organised crime. Serious and organised crime local profiles were being prepared but not complete at the time of our inspection. A greater involvement of partner organisations would not only bring a greater clarity of the scale of the problem but also offer solutions for tackling organised crime groups.
The force is assessed as being in a good state of readiness to fulfil its national policing responsibilities.
How effective is the force at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and keeping people safe?
North Wales Police is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and keeping people safe. These priorities are explicit in the police and crime plan, the workforce understands them well and they are routinely translated into operational activity.
The chief officer group is driving the It Matters campaign which reinforces the importance of professionalism, quality of service and victim focus. The force is adept at aligning resources to crime patterns and strong links with other service providers ensure that a broad range of tactics is available to address offending.
We found evidence of a well-motivated and experienced workforce working with others to provide a better service. A good example is the North Wales Police Victims Care Centre; this brings together a number of criminal justice partners to provide an enhanced level of support to victims.
There are some areas where more could be done; for instance examples of ‘evidence-based policing’, an assurance that police tactics have been evaluated as being effective, are limited.
However, the force takes a firm lead in promoting the benefits of joint working. We found examples of this at regional, county and neighbourhood levels that make a real difference to communities in North Wales.
Areas for improvement
- The force should use evidence of ‘what works’ drawn from other forces, academics and partners to improve continually its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour. There needs to be routine evaluation of tactics and sharing of effective practice.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and managing offenders?
North Wales Police’s approach to investigating crimes requires improvement.
The workforce undeniably shows a commitment to victims, but the force needs to improve its identification of vulnerability, its allocation of crime for investigation and offender management.
The identification of vulnerability at the first point of contact with the force is not assured. Furthermore, the force has no systematic policy to allocate crime for investigation based on the vulnerability of the victim. These shortcomings may mean that the force does not prioritise adequately its response to victims and the service provided falls short of required standards.
Once crimes have been allocated to investigators, the force conducts investigations well and supervision is good on most occasions. This represents an improvement since this area was last inspected in HMIC’s crime inspection in 2014.
Nevertheless, officers without the requisite training are investigating some complex crimes and sexual offences. A similar concern arises when the force assigns victims at high-risk of domestic abuse to investigators who do not have the relevant skills.
The force manages registered sex offenders well but staff we spoke to raised some concerns about their individual workload.
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 ensure that all those carrying out investigations are provided with appropriate training and support.
- The force should work with partner organisations to develop its approach to integrated offender management in line with the Home Office IOM principles.
How effective is the force at protecting from harm those who are vulnerable, and supporting victims?
North Wales Police has a strong work ethic to protect vulnerable people; clear leadership direction is being provided from the top of the organisation; it is explicit about its provision of frontline services and partner organisations are complimentary of the lead it takes in bringing together public services.
HMIC found that progress has been made since we last inspected domestic abuse in North Wales. Frontline response officers complete risk assessments with greater consistency and they are subject to better supervision. Safeguarding has become more assured as frontline officers develop awareness of how to gain support from other service providers; similarly an increase in the number of independent domestic advisors mean that the support available for high-risk victims is better.
An understanding of the scale and impact of child sexual abuse is developing and joint service delivery with Barnardo’s is building stronger support for young people who are at risk.
This progress is being hindered by two enduring problems which HMIC has previously highlighted: the ability of the force to accurately identify vulnerability at the first point of contact; and the force’s allocation of crime for investigation in a manner that matches the skills and experience of the investigator to the vulnerability of the victim. The impact of these shortcomings means that overall HMIC judges that the force’s performance requires improvement.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve its identification and assessment of risk to vulnerable people at the initial point of contact. It should do this by ensuring staff who work within the force control room consistently use approved force processes, which are designed to support the assessment of risk together with effective supervision of their decision making.
- The force should improve the investigation of cases involving vulnerable victims, specifically in relation to cases involving children at risk of sexual exploitation and victims of domestic abuse, to ensure appropriately skilled and experienced staff conduct the investigation.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangement for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities?
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.
North Wales Police tackles serious and organised crime effectively in many respects although there is scope for improvement in some specific areas.
North Wales Police has established procedures to allow it to identify and map organised crime groups (OCGs). Recently introduced serious and organised crime boards have started to address better joint working. However the scale of emerging threats, such as human trafficking, is not yet fully understood.
The force has procedures to escalate the management of OCGs to the regional organised crime unit if additional specialist resources are required. However, the force needs to do more to ensure that officers appointed to manage lower-risk OCGs are conversant with their roles and responsibilities. It should also ensure that neighbourhood policing teams are more routinely involved in tackling OCGs.
The force has satisfactory arrangements in place to fulfil its national policing responsibilities.
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.