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West Mercia PEEL 2015

Effectiveness

How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?

Last updated 18/02/2016
Requires improvement

Overall West Mercia Police is judged to require improvement at keeping people safe and reducing crime.

The force is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, most notably by working effectively with partner agencies. The force investigates crime well and standards of supervision are a strength. The way in which the force assesses the risk faced by domestic abuse victims and missing children requires improvement. Improvement is also required in how the force understands and responds to serious and organised crime. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so a year-on-year comparison is not possible.

West Mercia Police is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. The force vision and values demonstrate a strong commitment to protecting people from harm and working in partnership, and these are generally well understood throughout the force. It ensures appropriate processes and resources are assigned to work effectively with partner organisations to tackle problems of concern for the community.

When a crime has occurred, the force acts quickly and carries out good quality investigations, and keeps victims informed about how their cases are progressing. However, better arrangements are needed to retrieve digital evidence from smartphones, tablets and other devices as this is delaying some investigations.

The force works well with others to divert offenders away from crime, and is effective at identifying, investigating and bringing to justice repeat and dangerous offenders to stop them re-offending.

West Mercia Police generally provides a good service in identifying vulnerable victims and responds appropriately with its partners. However, the approach to responding to vulnerable missing children and assessing the risks to domestic abuse victims is inconsistent and requires improvement.

The force needs to develop its understanding of the threats from serious and organised crime, including more effectively mapping new and emerging OCGs. Completion of local profiles, formal mapping of new groups as they emerge and greater involvement of local policing teams and partners will enhance the force’s understanding of threats posed to the public by serious and organised crime. This is an area that requires improvement.

The force has arrangements in place to ensure it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities.

 

Questions for Effectiveness

1

How effective is the force at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and keeping people safe?

West Mercia Police is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. In HMIC’s 2014 crime inspection, we judged the force to be good at reducing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour.

The force’s vision and values reflect a commitment to protect people from harm and to work in partnership; and these are generally well understood throughout the force.

The force recognises the value of dedicated officers and staff working within neighbourhoods to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour. To that end it ensures that every local area has a visible and accessible safer neighbourhood team.

The force works effectively with partner agencies to keep people safe and tackle anti-social behaviour. Partner organisations spoke positively about the force’s commitment and contribution to effective joint working and HMIC found good examples of new legislation being used to tackle emerging issues of anti-social behaviour.

There is room for improvement in the way the force evaluates and shares information about effective problem solving, although it is planning to improve information sharing with partner agencies by introducing a shared problem-solving database. The public can feel confident that the force is working well to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, and keep people safe.

Good

Areas for improvement

  • 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 needs to be routine evaluation of tactics and sharing of effective practice.
2

How effective is the force at investigating crime and managing offenders?

West Mercia Police’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders is good. This is consistent with HMIC’s crime inspection in 2014, which assessed the force as good at investigating offending.

Crime investigations are well managed, have well documented investigation plans and are effectively supervised. Victims are generally kept well informed as investigations progress.

Investigators are trained and equipped to conduct investigations appropriate to their role. Good investigation support is provided through forensic analysis of exhibits to help identify offenders. However, better arrangements are needed to retrieve digital evidence from smartphones, tablets and other devices.

Good procedures are in place to focus activity on those offenders who are committing most crime and anti-social behaviour in neighbourhoods. Arresting outstanding offenders is a priority for all staff and is monitored through daily governance meetings.

The force effectively uses its integrated offender management programme to divert offenders out of the criminal justice system and prevent further offending. There are effective partnership arrangements in place to support this and local officers have good levels of awareness of offenders within the programme.

Management of offenders under multi-agency public protection arrangements is good with appropriate strategic governance and effective partnership working.

Good

Areas for improvement

  • 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.
3

How effective is the force at protecting from harm those who are vulnerable, and supporting victims?

West Mercia Police generally provides a good service in identifying vulnerable victims and responds appropriately with its partners, and the public can be confident that many victims are well-supported. However, in some areas improvement is needed to ensure that the force provides a consistent service to victims and gives vulnerable people, particularly missing children, the response they need and keeps them safe.

HMIC found that the force’s approach to responding to vulnerable missing children and assessing the risks to domestic abuse victims is not consistently good enough. This means that the force is not always fully addressing the needs of some of the most vulnerable victims. However, where risk and vulnerability has been correctly identified, the police response to victims is good.

Generally, investigations into crimes against vulnerable victims and victims assessed as high risk are conducted by specialists to a satisfactory standard with effective supervision. The force works well with partner organisations to share information and jointly safeguard and support victims.

This inspection only considered how well prepared the force is to tackle child sexual exploitation. The force has made an encouraging start in ensuring it is adequately prepared to tackle child sexual exploitation, however some of its missing persons processes mean that further work is required if the public can be confident that this preparation is sufficient.

This inspection only considered how well prepared the force is to tackle child sexual exploitation. The force has made an encouraging start in ensuring it is adequately prepared to tackle child sexual exploitation, however some of its missing persons processes mean that further work is required if the public can be confident that this preparation is sufficient.



Requires improvement

Cause of concern

The force response to missing and absent children is a cause of concern for HMIC. HMIC found some weaknesses in the way the force assesses the risks to children and young people who go missing. Factors that should escalate the risk assessment, such as the child being at risk of sexual exploitation, are missed. This means that the police response is not be consistently providing the right level of safeguarding and protection to missing children, especially children in care, who are already among the most vulnerable people in society. Investigations are of a variable quality and there are concerns regarding supervision. Information from previous missing episodes is not consistently used to develop safeguarding and investigation plans.

Recommendations

To address this cause of concern HMIC recommends the force should immediately take steps to ensure that:

  • frontline staff understand and appropriately use the categories ‘missing’ and ‘absent’ and identify the factors that escalate the risk of harm to children;
  • supervisors provide the correct oversight of missing person investigations and make appropriate decisions in accordance with the risk assessment; and
  • it improves its response to persistent and repeat missing children, through the effective use of information from previous missing episodes to develop a co-ordinated and prioritised response.

Areas for improvement

  • The force should improve its response to vulnerable victims by reviewing the behaviour of staff towards vulnerability and evaluating the effectiveness of its training, learning and development.
  • The force should improve its compliance with its duties under the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, specifically in relation to the use of special measures.
  • The force should improve its response to domestic abuse by ensuring that its frontline staff understand the dynamics of domestic abuse to support victims better. It should also ensure that risk assessments are carried out to the appropriate standard, with effective supervision.
4

How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangement for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities?

West Mercia Police requires improvement in tackling serious and organised crime. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their effectiveness at tackling serious and organised crime, including a force’s arrangements for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.

The force needs to develop its understanding of the threats from such crime. It has only completed serious and organised crime profiles for one of its five local policing areas.

Some new and emerging OCGs are not mapped, and professional judgment is used to tackle them without a full assessment of the threat they pose. The level of involvement of local policing teams in tackling OCGs is not effective in all areas.

HMIC found limited evidence of collaborative activity with partners, although the force has made use of the media to provide information to communities about the risk of such crime.

The force has good links to other partners in law enforcement regionally and is making use of intelligence gathering opportunities through government and partner arrangements.

The force has arrangements in place to fulfil its responsibilities under the Strategic Policing Requirement. The response to some aspects, such as counter-terrorism is well established, while progress in others is more recent, such as the dedicated child sexual exploitation team funded by the PCC.

Requires improvement

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.
  • The force should ensure that it maps all organised crime groups and re-assesses them at regular intervals in line with national standards.
  • The force should improve the awareness of organised crime groups among neighbourhood teams to ensure that they can reliably identify these groups, proactively 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 take steps to identify those at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime, and ensure that preventative initiatives are put in place with partner organisations to deter them from offending.