Northamptonshire PEEL 2015
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement in the way it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
Although the force has a clear commitment to reducing crime and keeping people safe, there is room for improvement in the way it prevents crime and anti-social behaviour; levels of violent crime in the county remain too high. Weaknesses in the assessment and allocation of crime for investigation are causing unacceptable delays; this needs to improve, and more needs to be done to improve how the force identifies and responds to vulnerable people. The force also needs to work better with partner organisations in its fight against serious and organised crime. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so comparison of their year-on-year effectiveness is not possible.
The force is committed to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and has an aspiration for Northamptonshire to become the safest place in England. It is trying to improve the service it provides in identifying vulnerable people and responding to them, but more needs to be done. While most officers understand the need to focus on protecting people from harm, poor direction and assigning of tasks means they are often not aligning their activities with force priorities.
HMIC is concerned that the way in which crime is allocated for investigation is causing unacceptable delays, which puts at risk the force’s ability to properly investigate, gather the best evidence and ensure timely support for victims. We found that many crime investigations lack effective initial supervision and some cases are being investigated by officers without the appropriate skills or experience. There are also backlogs in the force’s forensic examination of digital evidence from mobile phones and computers, which is causing delays in the investigation of high-tech crimes.
The force is working well with the fire and rescue service in a range of areas including the management of repeat and dangerous offenders and there are effective programmes in place to reduce some re-offending.
It has a partial understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime. In this area the force has highly-skilled staff and an excellent working relationship with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, which provides additional capacity to fight organised crime; but the force could do more to involve local partner agencies in understanding and tackling organised crime groups.
The leadership has strong oversight of the force’s ability to respond to national threats, such as terrorism, serious cyber-crime incidents and child sexual abuse. Its own arrangements are good for ensuring it can meet its national obligations in this regard (such as planning, testing and exercising).
How effective is the force at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and keeping people safe?
Northamptonshire Police’s effectiveness in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe requires improvement. Poor direction to officers and assigning of tasks means the force may not be making the best use of its available resources for preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and activities may not be fully aligned with the priorities of the force.
The overall level of recorded crime in Northamptonshire increased by 13 percent in comparison with the previous year, compared with an increase of 4 percent across England and Wales. The force recognises that it needs to tackle high levels of violent crime. It is putting plans in place to address the matter in collaboration with specific partners.
Partnership arrangements at senior level are strong; however, operationally (at middle management level) joint problem-solving needs to be connected and agreed better. Some use, but inconsistently, is made of an evidence-based approach to tackling crime, but the force needs to do more to systematically learn from what works. A significant number of initiatives are in place across the county to combat a variety of problems but a lack of co-ordination and connectivity makes it difficult for the force to have an understanding of the impact they have.
Areas for improvement
- The force should provide officers and staff with clear direction about how crime prevention activity should be focused in line with local priorities.
- The force should adopt a structured and consistent problem-solving process 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 other agencies 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?
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement in the way it investigates crime. HMIC is concerned that the way in which crime is allocated for investigation is causing unacceptable delays which puts at risk the force’s ability to properly investigate, gather the best evidence and ensure timely support for victims. We found that many crime investigations lacked effective initial supervision and some cases were being investigated by officers without the appropriate skills or experience. We found examples of delays in the recording of crimes. There are also backlogs in the force’s forensic examination of digital evidence from mobile phones and computers, which is causing delays in the investigation of high-tech crimes.
Victim satisfaction with Northamptonshire Police for the 12 months to 31 March 2015 is significantly lower than in the previous year.
Although the force is working well with other organisations to provide initiatives and schemes to divert offenders away from crime and the force has effective multi-agency arrangements in place to manage dangerous offenders, the integrated offender management programme is managing only those offenders involved in serious acquisitive crime. Given the high levels of violent crime in Northamptonshire and the priority placed on tackling it by the force, it is disappointing that this integrated approach is not being used to manage violent offenders to prevent re-offending.
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 take steps to ensure that all available evidence is recorded at scenes of crime.
- The force should ensure that there is regular and active supervision of investigations to check quality and progress.
- 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.
- The force should introduce a clear process to ensure that those who are circulated as wanted on the police national computer, those who fail to appear on police bail and named suspects identified through forensic evidence are swiftly arrested.
How effective is the force at protecting from harm those who are vulnerable, and supporting victims?
Northamptonshire Police is trying to improve the service it provides in identifying vulnerable people and responding to them, so that the public can be confident that the force supports victims well. The force has good systems and processes in place to deal with vulnerability and risk at the initial point of contact. However, an improved awareness of vulnerability and empathy for victims by call-handlers is required to ensure that vulnerable victims feel fully engaged from the outset of their contact with police.
The use of the THRIVE approach to assess threat, risk and harm and the associated training the force has provided to its staff is designed to improve this situation but the benefits have yet to be seen and the force needs to improve its training for domestic abuse.
Investigations of missing and absent people and child sexual exploitation are of a good standard and the force has developed strong multi-agency risk assessment conference and multi-agency safeguarding hub models with good information-sharing and joint safeguarding activity. However, there are still several areas where more improvement is needed to ensure the service is consistent and vulnerable people are kept safe. While the force has effective processes to support the identification of vulnerable victims through a standardised risk assessment, officers often do not secure vital evidence.
The limited capacity and relative inexperience of investigative staff in the specialist domestic abuse investigation unit mean that the force is not safeguarding some high-risk victims of domestic abuse. Equally, the force’s investigations for standard and medium-risk cases are often below standard.
The absence of recent or fully developed multi-agency problem profiles hinders the force’s ability to respond to and safeguard vulnerable groups that are missing or absent, or subject to domestic abuse. This also affects the force’s preparedness to tackle child sexual exploitation.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve its initial assessment of risk to vulnerable people by ensuring its staff who take calls are appropriately-trained.
- The force should improve its investigation of cases involving vulnerable victims, including rape, by ensuring that it carries out investigations to the required standards with proper supervision and recording of plans and actions.
- The force should improve its response to missing and absent children and those at risk of sexual exploitation by ensuring it improves its understanding of the scale and nature of the issue. This understanding should be achieved through analysis and assessment of available information, including that of partners.
- The force should improve its response to persistent and repeat missing children by ensuring it uses information from previous missing episodes to develop a co-ordinated and prioritised response.
- The force should improve its investigation and safeguarding of domestic abuse victims by ensuring that frontline staff carry out risk assessments to the appropriate standards, staff attending incidents of domestic abuse consistently use body-worn video cameras and that the force has sufficient staff with the appropriate professional skills and experience to investigate cases and safeguard victims.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangement for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities?
The way Northamptonshire Police tackles serious and organised crime requires improvement. 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 requirements, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
The force needs to improve its understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime, and improve its multi-agency response to it, including work to prevent people from becoming involved in criminal groups and protecting communities from the harm they cause. The force recognises it needs to do more to work with partners to prevent serious and organised crime. The force is taking steps to better engage with local partner organisations in its approach to tackling organised crime groups (OCGs).
Although Northamptonshire is well served by the specialist capacity within the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) to tackle higher level serious and organised crime, the force itself has only limited specialist capacity, and it could do more to involve local policing teams and local partner organisations to bolster its response to serious and organised crime.
We found that the force has the necessary arrangements in place to ensure that responsibilities for targeting OCGs sit at the appropriate level, whether that be with the force or EMSOU. This approach has led to the successful dismantling of several OCG networks. However, the force could do more to raise awareness of OCGs with frontline officers and it should review the way in which it highlights the risks of organised crime to communities.
The force has well developed and strong arrangements in place to fulfil its national policing responsibilities, with chief officer oversight and strong links with regional and local partners with arrangements in place to test its plans.
Areas for improvement
- The force should supplement its serious and organised crime profile by establishing a local partnership structure with responsibility for tackling serious and organised crime.
- The force should engage routinely with partner organisations in order to increase its ability to disrupt and investigate serious and organised crime.
- The force 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.
- The force should develop a better understanding of the impact of its activity on serious and organised crime, and ensure that it learns from experience to maximise its disruptive effect.
- The force should ensure that it takes opportunities to communicate with the public about serious and organised crime, in particular to publicise successful operations, offer reassurance and provide advice to help people to protect themselves from serious and organised crime.