Kent Police: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2017

Overall judgment

graded inadequate

Kent Police has failed to maintain the improvements to crime-recording accuracy reported in HMIC’s 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report. However, we found that:

  • officers and staff are placing the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions;
  • the force has worked hard in bringing about improvements in the use and scrutiny of out-of-court disposals among officers and staff; and
  • its victim support hub is well-established, providing those victims who get their crime recorded with access to support services to which they are entitled.

Much work remains to be done. The force had discharged the recommendations for improvement made in our 2014 report; however, we found that not all of these improvements have been maintained. This regression is undermining the effectiveness and efficiency of its crime-recording arrangements.

Based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 June 2016 to 30 November 2016, we estimate that the force fails to record over 24,300 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 83.6 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.85 percent). The 16.4 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include serious crimes such as sexual offences, domestic abuse and rape. The recording rate for violent crime is a particular cause of concern at only 79.2 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.26 percent). This means that on too many occasions, the force is failing victims of crime.

This regression from the force’s previous high standards of crime-recording accuracy is disappointing. Improvements must be made. In particular, we consider that there are too many failures to make the correct crime-recording decision at the first opportunity. These failures are often due to an insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements by officers and staff, compounded by limited supervision to correct these decisions at the earliest opportunity.

The force has responded quickly to the issues identified in this inspection. For example it has:

  • increased the size of its data audit unit;
  • appointed a new lead for crime recording and investigative standards; and
  • prioritised the recruitment for new staff into roles within the investigation management unit (IMU).

Summary of inspection findings

The force has not maintained the standards of crime-recording accuracy reported in our 2014 report. However, we found that:

  • it has streamlined the process for making crime recording decisions within the IMU, and this unit now makes the majority of crime recording decisions;
  • where the force does record reported crime, it generally does so within the 24 hours required by the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR);
  • it has made good progress in developing an understanding of modern slavery offences among officers and staff; and
  • the force crime and incident registrar (FCIR) – responsible for oversight of crime-recording arrangements – has completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and is now fully accredited for the role.

Despite these advances, the force’s performance in respect of crime-recording is unacceptable in the following areas:

  • The force is currently under-recording too many reports of crime, including:
    • violent crimes;
    • reports of rape; and
    • other sexual offences.

The force needs to act promptly to improve the accuracy of its recording of these reports and to provide all victims with the service to which they are entitled and deserve.

  • The force had discharged the recommendations for improvement made in our 2014 report; however, we found that not all of these improvements have been maintained. this regression is undermining the effectiveness and efficiency of its crime-recording requirements.
  • Reports of crime made directly to public protection teams are often not being recorded.
  • The force must improve the extent to which it collects information regarding the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities.

Some of these failings are a consequence of the force not maintaining effective and efficient oversight of crime-recording arrangements by its IMU and data audit unit (DAU) as described in our 2014 report. In addition, there remains an absence of scrutiny of crime-recording accuracy within the force public protection unit (PPU), and limited progress has been made to ensure officers and staff understand their crime-recording responsibilities.

Cause of concern

In Kent Police officers and staff are not making the correct crime-recording decisions far too often. This is due to deficiencies in the way the force control room (FCR) manages incidents on its STORM incident recording system, insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements within the IMU and PPU, and limited audit and supervision to correct the decisions of officers and staff and improve standards from the outset. This means that the force is failing many victims of crime.

The force is failing to ensure it adequately records all reports of rape, other sexual offences and violence, including domestic abuse crimes and crimes reported directly to its public protection units. In addition, on many occasions, it is incorrectly using classification N100.

Recommendations

  • Immediately, the force should take steps to identify and address gaps in its systems and processes for the recording of reports of crime. This work should:
    • include a review of the quality of incident recording;
    • provide a consistent and structured approach to call-handling quality assurance processes; and
    • identify and address shortcomings in the identification and recording of reported crime by the investigation management unit (IMU).
  • Immediately, the force should take steps to ensure that all reported crimes of rape are recorded without delay and that classification N100 is used correctly.
  • Within three months, the force should review the use of secondary incident records when a crime has been disclosed and in particular where crimes are disclosed during the course of investigations, to ensure the use of secondary incidents does not inhibit crime-recording accuracy.
  • Within three months the force should develop and implement procedures to ensure that where more than one crime is disclosed within an incident record or is identified as part of other recorded crime investigations; that these are recorded;
  • Within three months, the force should develop and implement procedures for the effective supervision of crime-recording decisions throughout the whole force.
  • Within three months, the force should ensure sufficient audit capacity and capability is available to the FCIR to provide reassurance that the force is identifying and managing any gaps in its crime-recording accuracy. This is particularly important for vulnerable victims and those crimes where the risk to the victim is greatest, such as rape, sexual offences, domestic abuse and modern slavery.
  • Within six months, the force should design and provide training for all staff who make crime-recording decisions. This should include training in regard to:
    • the extent of the information required to provide for a crime-recording decision to be made;
    • the expectation that reported crime is recorded at the first point that sufficient information exists to record a crime, which in the majority of cases will be at the point of report;
    • the proper use of classification N100 for reports of rape and recording crimes of rape involving multiple offenders and from third party reports;
    • offences involving the public order act, malicious communications, harassment and common assault; and
    • the additional verifiable information required in order to make crime-cancellation decisions.

Areas for improvement

  • The force should immediately improve how it collects diversity information from all victims of crime and how it uses this to inform its compliance with its equality duty.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded inadequate

Overall crime-recording rate

83.6% of reported crimes 
were recorded

Over 24,300 reports of crime 
were not recorded

The force has considerable work to do in order to ensure it records all reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR). We examined reports of crime which the force received, and for which an auditable record was created. The force informed HMIC that 98.8 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime reporting route. This does not mean that 98.8 percent of crimes reported to Kent Police come through these routes but that 98.8 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 83.6 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.85 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 24,300 reports of crime each year. Those failings are depriving many victims of the services to which they are entitled and are a cause of concern.

Of a total of 1,500 reports of crime that we audited, we found 446 that we assessed to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these 446 crimes, the force had recorded 348. The 98 offences not recorded included a serious assault, other crimes involving physical violence, harassment and stalking, and malicious communications.

In ten of these cases we found no record of victim safeguarding requirements having been considered. In the remaining 88 cases risk assessments were completed and safeguarding provided. On 21 occasions officers had undertaken investigations and provided safeguarding but had neglected to record the crime on the force crime system.

We found inconsistency in the way that the control room allocates domestic abuse incidents which contain reports of crime. Some are sent correctly to the IMU for a crime recording decision to be made, but others are sent to the IMU for a domestic violence secondary incident (DVSI) to be created. The purpose of the DVSI is to record the fact that a domestic abuse incident has occurred which does not constitute a crime. We found that many reports of crimes are contained within DVSIs but, as no request had been made by the control room for a crime-record to be created, many of these have not been recorded as crimes by the IMU. These include offences of assault and harassment.

The absence of understanding of the extent of domestic abuse crime, the under-recording of crimes related to domestic violence secondary incidents, and the failure to provide safeguarding and a satisfactory service to some of these victims are causes of serious concern. This is because domestic abuse often involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to further offences being committed against them.

Factors contributing to the force’s under-recording of crime reports are its crime-recording processes, including incident handling, the crime-recording knowledge of its workforce and the absence of effective and efficient supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes are a concern. In particular, we found that:

  • call handlers did not always record the important details of the call received from the member of the public, including reports of crime, on the incident record;
  • the use of the same incident record to record initial and subsequent complaints from the same victim, or other victims reports which may be linked to the same offenders, results in many crimes not being recorded;
  • incident records become lengthy and confusing, resulting in officers and staff, including auditors, finding it difficult to determine what crimes have been reported and by whom, and which if any of these crimes has been recorded;
  • on too many occasions incidents which include allegations of crime are being categorised wrongly by the control room. This means that they do not always get sent to the IMU for a crime recording decision to be made; and
  • when further offences come to light after the initial deployment or during subsequent investigation, the force does not always record reported crimes.

We found that officers and staff do not always make correct crime recording decisions. In particular:

  • basic crime-recording principles and knowledge of crime-recording requirements relating to common assault, malicious communications and harassment are poorly understood. For example, we found that staff were unsure of the crime-recording rules regarding common assault where there is no physical assault but the threat of one; and
  • supervisors are not identifying crime-recording requirements from secondary incidents and where additional crimes are found during crime investigations.

We also note, in concluding this section, that reduced staffing levels and a high turnover of staff has resulted in an increased number of inexperienced staff working within the IMU. As the IMU has responsibility for a high proportion of crime-recording decisions this is affecting negatively on the quality of these decisions. This is exacerbated by the lack of effective audit.

The force has taken immediate steps to develop and implement an action plan designed to address problems identified during this inspection.

Violence against the person

79.2% of reported violent crimes 
were recorded

Over 10,600 reports of violent crime 
were not recorded

We found that 79.2 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.26 percent). This is lower than the overall crime recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 10,600 violent crimes that are reported to it each year. As violent crime can be particularly distressing for the victim, this is an area in which the need for improvement is particularly acute.

Many of these crimes involve injury, which can cause even further distress for the victim. This includes a report of grievous bodily harm, whereby an adult female had disclosed a previous assault by her partner which had resulted in a broken arm. This disclosure was made while the female was reporting another matter; the historic report was not recorded in the incident record and as a result no crime was recorded. We therefore find the recording of reports of violent crime by the force to be concerning.

In the majority of cases, where violent crimes were not recorded, we found the principal causes to be:

  • the processes currently in place for the recording of a reported crime (described earlier);
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules, particularly around the complexities of some violence offences such as harassment, malicious communications and the more straightforward offence of common assault. This results in the failure to record many such violent crimes; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Victims of violent crime and, in particular, victims of more serious violence, often require substantial support. This support should come not only from the reporting and investigating officers, but also, possibly, from the victim hub. Under those circumstances, crime-recording takes on a heightened importance. Failing to properly record a violent crime can result in the victim hub receiving no notification that a person has become a victim of violent crime. That in turn deprives victims of the support they need and deserve.

Sexual offences

90.2% of reported sex offences 
were recorded

Over 400 reports of sex offence crime 
were not recorded

The force’s recording of reports of sexual offences (including rape), is a concern. We found that the force records 90.2 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.99 percent). We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 400 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

Those failings are significant given the very serious nature of sexual offences and the harm they cause to their victims. We found that the force failed to record some reports of rape, sexual assault against both adults and children and sexual offences committed using the internet to share indecent images. A large number of these related to reports made by third parties, as part of their employment, on behalf of the victims.

The causes of that under-recording are similar to those described earlier:

  • the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime;
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules;
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions; and
  • a failure by officers and staff to understand the rules in regard to the recording of reports of crime made on behalf of victims by professional third parties (for example health professionals and social services).

Sexual offence victims require significant support from the outset. The failure to record such crimes, to provide appropriate support to the victim, or any delay in attendance or investigation will often result in a lack of confidence in the police and reluctance on behalf of the victim to engage in subsequent stages of the criminal justice system. The force must improve its performance in this respect.

Rape

102 out of 112 reports of rape audited by HMIC were recorded

Rape is one of the most serious sexual offence crimes a victim can experience. Therefore, the accurate recording of such reports is especially important. It helps to ensure victims receive the service they have a right to expect and deserve, and it allows the police to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area. In turn, this enables the police to operate with the highest practicable levels of efficiency to identify and deal effectively with perpetrators.

In Kent Police we found that of 112 reports of rape that should have been recorded, 102 had been recorded. These include reports that originated on the force incident system and reports received directly by specialist officers from third party professionals.

However, importantly we found that although a crime may not have been recorded, Kent Police provided support and safeguarding in all of these ten cases, including referrals to partner organisations when appropriate. Investigations had been carried out in all but one. It should be noted that in that single case the victim was being provided with support owing to other crimes that had been reported and recorded. In two cases the officers’ understanding about consent in rape crimes was lacking, which led to these offences not being recorded.

Kent Police’s policy is that any reports of rape it receives must be recorded as a crime or, if appropriate, an N100 without delay. Despite this some offences were not recorded. The causes of the under-recording of these ten crimes are the same as were identified above in respect of sexual offences. These are:

  • the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime;
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

There are, in addition, issues with the force’s use of the Home Office classification N100. Introduced in April 2015, the N100 is a record created to explain why reported incidents of rape or attempted rapes, whether from victims, witnesses or third parties, have not been immediately recorded as a confirmed crime. This can include instances where additional information confirms the rape did not occur, or where the rape occurred in another force area and was therefore transferred to the relevant force to record and investigate.

We found 53 incident reports for which an N100 classification should have been applied, but it was only applied on 36 occasions.

Separately, we also reviewed 20 sample records where an N100 classification had been used. Among these, we found three reports that the force should have recorded as crimes of rape from the outset. However we found that the FCIR had intervened, as is her role in all these cases and all three had been subsequently recorded correctly.

The responsibility for recording a classification N100 lies with the IMU and with specialists within the PPU. We found good levels of understanding within the IMU but less so within the PPU. We also found that some officers and staff did not understand correctly the crime-recording rules for when a report of rape is made by a professional third party.

As with other sexual offences, the recording of a report of rape is important. Victims generally require significant support from the outset and any delay in providing support can be detrimental to both the recovery of the victim and to any investigation. This, in turn, may influence negatively any future judicial proceedings.

How efficiently do the systems and processes in the force support accurate crime-recording?

graded inadequate

Crime reports held on other systems

5 out of 18 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

In order to be confident that vulnerable victims always receive the support they need, the force must improve its recording of crimes reported directly to its public protection teams.

We examined 50 vulnerable victim records. Of these, we found that 18 crimes should have been recorded, of which 5 had been. The missing 13 crimes included 3 involving sexual activity with a child and several physical assaults. Importantly, we found that although a crime may not have been recorded, Kent Police provided support and safeguarding in all of these 13 cases, including referrals to partner organisations when appropriate. These were disclosed during structured risk assessments, but were not recorded as crimes and remained recorded as secondary incidents.

The causes of the under-recording of these 13 crimes are the same as were identified above in respect of sexual offences. This is particularly true in relation to the improper use of secondary incidents and lack of effective supervision of those records.

The extent to which reports of crime received by public protection teams are not being recorded, and the seriousness of the risks associated with the under-recording of these reports of crime, are of concern.

Modern slavery

Offences relating to modern slavery are an important and recent addition to the crimes that forces must record and investigate. We therefore reviewed the recording of reports of modern slavery offences. We also examined the force’s understanding of the origin of such reports.

From an examination of 20 reports of modern slavery, derived from a number of sources, we identified that of the 18 crimes that should have been recorded, 15 were. The three missing records included two crimes of modern slavery and an assault.

We also examined 20 reports which the force had recorded as modern slavery crimes. From these, we found the force should have recorded 31 offences and had recorded 30. The missing offence was an assault. In all cases we found that the force was safeguarding the victims.

The force works regionally, nationally and internationally in its efforts to tackle modern slavery. A detective chief inspector leads on modern slavery matters on behalf of Kent Police and Essex Police, and attends regional partnership meetings. The force has identified modern slavery as a priority and has comprehensive intelligence collection plans in place.

Officers and staff have a good, basic knowledge of modern slavery offences. We also found that they have a good, basic knowledge of their respective responsibilities in relation to the recording of such offences and where they can find further information.

Timeliness

The HOCR require that reports of crime are recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report. We found that, of the reports of crime that had been recorded by Kent Police, 85 out of 95 reports of rape, 427 out of 462 reports of violent crime and 158 out of 190 sexual offences (excluding rape) had been recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report.

This means that generally, when the force makes correct crime-recording decisions, its recording procedures are effective at ensuring the crime is recorded within 24 hours, as permitted by the rules. This timely recording enables the force to make early referrals to its victim support hub for those victims in need of the support that is available.

Cancelled crimes

Where additional verifiable information (AVI) is obtained to show that a recorded crime did not occur, the crime record can be cancelled. In this respect we found that the force has made limited progress.

We reviewed 20 cancelled recorded crimes each of rape, violence and sexual offence crimes (excluding rape) and 11 robbery crimes. Of these, we found that the FCIR had correctly cancelled 19 out of 19 crimes of rapes. This is excellent. However, other crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of designated decision makers (DDMs) located within the IMU. The DDMs had correctly cancelled 13 out of 20 sexual offences, 11 out of 20 violence offences and 9 out of 11 robbery offences. This is an unacceptably poor standard.

Where a crime has been cancelled or transferred to another force for investigation, a victim should always know the status of his or her reported crime. In the case of a decision to cancel a recorded crime, the very least the victim should expect is an explanation of the reason for this decision. We found that the force needs to improve in this respect as only 49 out of 70 victims had been informed of the decision to cancel their reported crime, and this included victims of rape and sexual offences.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime provides clear guidance to police forces regarding the service that should be provided to all victims of crime. The force is complying with all of its responsibilities.

Kent Police, through a hub funded by its police and crime commissioner, supports victims of crime who are referred to it once a crime has been recorded. In some cases victims may self-refer. The hub is well resourced and has access to specialists from many organisations to enhance the support it provides.

Equality

HMIC found that the force must improve its collection of information regarding crimes affecting identifiable groups within communities.

Protected characteristics, such as gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, religion and age do not necessarily increase the vulnerability of an individual to the risk of crime. However, it is important that the force records information regarding the characteristics of victims of crime in order to identify any patterns which may exist between different community groups and their vulnerability to (or their relative likelihood to report) different types of crime. We found that the force records equality information in relation to the victim such as age, gender and ethnicity on every occasion, but only records other protected characteristics where these are determined to be relevant to the offence.

So long as the force fails to record such information on every occasion, it will be unable to understand clearly whether its crime-recording decisions are consistent across different community groups. This, therefore, is an area for improvement.

Officer and staff survey

We conducted a survey of officers and staff in Kent Police of their experience in respect of crime-recording. Some 597 respondents completed the survey. These respondents stated that messages from the chief officer team are unequivocal that crime recording, and the victim and their voice are of the utmost importance. Staff agreed that they understood the need to record all crime and many believed that all crime was being recorded. There was no suggestion that any pressure was put on staff to not record crime.

How well does the force demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime-recording?

graded good

It is clear that officers and staff are placing the needs of the victim at the heart of their crime-recording decisions. However, we found deficiencies in crime-recording arrangements, together with an insufficient knowledge of crime-recording requirements among some officers and staff.

The force had discharged the recommendations for improvement made in our 2014 report; however, we found that not all of these improvements have been maintained. This regression is undermining the effectiveness and efficiency of its crime-recording requirements.

The progress made by the force in the use of out-of-court disposals is notable. Inspectors were impressed with the process in place to monitor all such disposals, including the use of independent scrutiny panels. Procedural documents are clear and concise; these ensure considerations as to the suitability of the use of the disposal for both the victim and offender are very good.

Progress has also been made against the action plan developed by the national policing lead on crime statistics following the 2014 report, and which all forces have been asked to implement.

The force took immediate positive action upon receipt of the findings of this inspection. This includes the development of an action plan, and improvements to the level of governance at a local and force level. Additional staff have also been recruited to the DAU to support the FCIR, and further recruitment is underway within the IMU. This immediate response is welcome.

Conclusion

Kent Police’s crime-recording arrangements are unacceptable.

The force has been unable to maintain the compliance levels reported in our 2014 report. This is as a result of the failure of systems that are designed to support effective crime-recording, poor supervision of crime-recording decisions and a lack of effective audit.

What next?

HMIC expects the force urgently to make progress implementing recommendations we make in this report and is pleased to see action has already started.

The serious causes of concern found during this inspection are such that HMIC may re-visit the force in early 2018 to assess progress.