Hertfordshire PEEL 2016
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Hertfordshire Constabulary has been assessed as requires improvement in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our overall judgement is a deterioration on last year, when we judged the force to be good. The force’s approach to preventing crime and to tackling anti-social behaviour and serious and organised crime is effective; how it investigates crime and reduces re-offending needs to improve. However, the force’s response to vulnerable people is inadequate because of serious weaknesses in the way the force assesses risk and how it supports some victims.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. It has devoted resources specifically to policing its community. The force works well with the local community and partner organisations to ensure it has a good understanding of the threats to all sections of its community. But the workforce lacks an evidence base to share good practice on the most effective ways to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
The force’s approach to investigating crime and reducing re-offending requires improvement, particularly its initial response, compliance with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, and offender management. While most subsequent investigations are effective, supervisors are not reviewing investigations consistently, and we found weaknesses in how the force investigates stalking and harassment cases. The force needs to do more to improve compliance with the code, especially regarding the completion of victims’ personal statements, victim contracts and victim updates. The force is good at protecting the public from the most harmful offenders, but it needs to increase its focus on violent offenders, understand how effective its approach is and have a clear overall direction.
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s effectiveness at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims, is inadequate. There are serious weaknesses in the way that the force assesses risk at the first point of contact, when the police receive a call. The force implemented the THRIIVES risk assessment process in March this year, but without enough quality assurance or supervision to ensure it is being used effectively. This means that some victims are not getting the support that they need when they need it, and evidence may be lost because officers are not attending incidents in a timely manner. Consequently, the force is not adequately protecting the vulnerable or supporting victims in the way it should.
HMIC also has concerns about how the force supports some of the victims in its area: the victim does not support police action in 41.0 percent of domestic abuse investigations, which is higher than the figure for England and Wales of 35.8 percent. The force is working hard to understand why this is. It has introduced a domestic abuse victim survey and is reviewing its use of the appointment service for domestic abuse victims (which includes scheduled appointments at locations and times that suit the victim, made by officers driving so-called ‘diary’ cars). In the control room we found that in some cases incorrect categorisation of incidents indicated that the right questions had not been asked of the victim. This, together with a lack of searches for additional information and intelligence, means some vulnerable victims may not have been identified and that the provision of safeguarding and investigations delayed. In some instances, we found specialist support should have been provided.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at tackling serious and organised crime. The force works well with national and local partner organisations and agencies, for example housing, the National Crime Agency, immigration enforcement, youth offending teams and probation services, to tackle organised crime. The force has the ability not just to pursue and disrupt organised criminals, but also to prevent organised crime from taking root in communities. The force is starting to use its neighbourhood officers to prevent people from becoming involved in organised crime, but it needs to make better use of its powers to prevent organised criminals causing further harm. The force also needs to improve how it gathers and uses intelligence, particularly that held by partner organisations such as HM Revenue and Customs and UK Visas and Immigration. Frontline officers’ knowledge of local organised crime groups could be improved.
The force’s plans for ensuring that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities are appropriate. The force regularly tests its public order, firearms and civil emergencies response across the region and with partner organisations. It is well prepared to respond to a firearms attack and is increasing its firearms capacity and capability to provide resilience and to support the national response.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. It uses information from across the force and from other local partner organisations to make sure that it has a good understanding of the threats to all sections of its community. Community safety teams work closely with the public, gathering information and acting on local concerns. The force works closely with its key individual network to establish links with communities which may not traditionally have had a high degree of contact with, or trust in, the police.
The force works well with partner organisations to protect communities and victims. It needs to share effective practice more systematically, so that officers and staff have easy access to proven methods of tackling crime and anti-social behaviour. The neighbourhood teams focus on keeping people safe. Officers in these teams have particular responsibilities for vulnerable people in their neighbourhoods, working with partner organisations to tackle crimes such as child sexual exploitation and domestic abuse.
The force does not have enough evidence to show that it is tackling crime and anti-social behaviour effectively. It is working with other partner organisations and the academic community to continue to learn and improve.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that local policing teams routinely engage with all sections of their local communities and undertake structured problem solving alongside partner organisations to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour.
- The force should routinely evaluate and share effective practice, both internally and with partner organisations, to improve its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s approach to investigating crime and reducing re-offending requires improvement. The force’s performance has deteriorated since 2015, when HMIC judged it to be good.
The force’s initial investigative response needs to improve. How the control room ensures that it collects and preserves evidence is inconsistent. HMIC is worried about how the force assesses whether officers should attend a call. While most investigations are effective, supervision could be better. The force does, however, prioritise the examination of computers and phones effectively.
The force has invested in the service it offers victims and has developed good processes, but training is not up to date and compliance with aspects of the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime is incomplete.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at protecting the public from serious and dangerous offenders, but its management of the most prolific criminals needs to improve. Its integrated offender management scheme has a narrow focus on offenders who commit large numbers of offences rather than on those who cause the most harm. It has good processes for managing the most dangerous offenders and registered sex offenders and works well with other organisations in doing so, but could involve its local neighbourhood teams more.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that it responds with appropriate promptness to reports of crime to enable the effective collection and preservation of evidence.
- The force should ensure that there is regular and active supervision of investigations, to improve quality and progress.
- The force should ensure that it is fully compliant with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.
- The force should consider widening its approach to integrated offender management to increase its ability to reduce threat, harm and risk.
- The force should ensure that frontline staff are aware of the registered sex offenders in their area, so that they can play a part in monitoring and managing them.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
The way in which Hertfordshire Constabulary supports vulnerable victims is inadequate. Its assessment of risk when a call is made to the police is a cause of concern. It has been implementing a recognised risk assessment process since March 2016, but without enough quality assurance and supervision to ensure that it is doing so effectively. This means that some victims are not getting the support when they need it and evidence may be lost because officers are not attending incidents promptly. The force is not protecting all vulnerable victims from harm or supporting victims adequately.
Hertfordshire Constabulary does some things well to protect vulnerable people. It understands the nature and scale of vulnerability in its local areas, but needs to update its profiles. Most officers we spoke to have a good understanding of vulnerable people. Frontline staff have received extensive training on vulnerability, as well as support from specialists and external organisations, and reference documents and briefing notes on the intranet. The force works closely with partner organisations to share information and develop initiatives to protect and support vulnerable people. It has invested substantial additional resources in the domestic abuse investigation unit to provide a better service to victims. The force discusses referrals quickly and efficiently with partner organisations and contributes effectively to multi-agency work with external partner organisations.
Cause of concern
It is a cause of concern to HMIC that some call handlers are not correctly identifying or categorising the level of risk associated with incidents involving vulnerable people. As a result, the force is not responding to these incidents within the appropriate timescales and putting victims at risk.
To address this cause of concern HMIC recommends that the force should take immediate steps to ensure that:
- it improves its initial assessment and response to incidents involving all vulnerable people, but particularly victims of domestic abuse, by ensuring that call handlers understand and consistently apply the THRIIVES (threat, harm, risk, investigation, intelligence, vulnerability, engagement, specific need) decision-making model, and are supervised effectively;
- it responds to all incidents on the basis of an initial assessment of risk rather than on the availability of response officers, to ensure victims are kept safe; and
- it improves its initial response to reports of domestic incidents, specifically to cases where police have been unable to attend or attendance has been delayed, so that it reassesses risk and takes appropriate safeguarding action in a timely manner.
Areas for improvement
- The force still needs to improve the investigation of cases involving vulnerable victims, specifically the quality of investigations and how effectively they are supervised.
- The force should review its use of domestic violence prevention orders, domestic violence prevention notices, and Clare’s Law to ensure that it is making best use of these powers to safeguard victims of domestic abuse.
- The force should review its process for sharing information with schools about children affected by domestic abuse incidents so that it can do so as quickly and effectively as possible.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at tackling serious and organised crime. It is improving its response to newer organised crime threats such as human trafficking, cyber-crime and child sexual exploitation. The force tackles high-level serious and organised crime, working closely with the Regional Organised Crime Unit. This ensures well-managed investigations and enables the force to target the most harmful organised crime groups (OCGs) with a range of activity, from prosecuting OCG members to making it harder for the OCG to operate.
How the force gathers and uses intelligence, particularly that held by partner organisations such as HM Revenue and Customs and UK Visas and Immigration, needs to improve. The force tackles OGCs proportionately; its policy on scoring these OCGs for the harm they cause and revisiting this scoring is consistent with national guidance.
The force takes a longer-term approach to OCG management, but could do more to realise the benefits of this approach. Despite good information available on police systems, frontline officers do not have a good knowledge of local OCGs. Raising their awareness could help to achieve a ‘whole force’ approach to tackling organised crime.
Areas for improvement
- The force should further develop its serious and organised crime local profile in conjunction with partner organisations, to enhance its understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime and inform joint activity aimed at reducing this threat.
- The force should engage routinely with partner agencies at a senior level to enhance intelligence sharing and promote an effective, multi-agency response to serious and organised crime.
- The force should complete an action plan for making the best use of the Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU), reducing duplication at force level and ensuring that the use of shared ROCU resources is prioritised effectively between forces in the Eastern region.
- The force should identify those at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime, and establish preventative initiatives alongside partner organisations to deter them from offending.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Hertfordshire Constabulary has effective plans for mobilising specialist resources in response to Strategic Policing Requirement threats. These plans are tested on a regular basis and amendments made following the lessons learned from such tests.
The force is well prepared for attacks requiring an armed response. It has recently reviewed its assessment of threat, risk and harm and this now explicitly includes the threats posed by marauding firearms terrorists. The force, together with its strategic alliance partners Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary, is increasing its firearms capacity and capability, and is making good progress in doing so.
Areas for improvement
- The forces in the strategic alliance should ensure that:
- question prompts for call takers are sufficient to support them in the event of a marauding terrorist firearms attack;
- control room staff take part in local and regional exercises to test the control room response; and
- control room inspectors have access to more concise instructions and memorandums.