Sussex PEEL 2015
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Sussex Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime.
The force is committed to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, but recent changes in its neighbourhood policing teams means there is now less focus on crime prevention. It continues to work well with others to keep people safe, including protecting victims and the most vulnerable people. The quality of crime investigation is good, and the force works well to stop re-offending. It is good at tackling serious and organised crime and fulfilling its national policing responsibilities. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so a year-on-year comparison is not possible.
The force is committed to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. It has fully developed neighbourhood policing teams that work well with partner organisations and has made good progress over recent years in its priority to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. However, staffing numbers in the neighbourhood policing teams are reducing, in advance of the introduction of a new way of working for local policing. This is limiting the force’s capacity to translate its priority into action. Many staff are now unclear as to where their priorities should lie in the face of many competing demands.
Sussex Police’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders is good. When a crime occurs, the force carries out high quality investigations generally. This includes making sure victims are safe, although they are not always kept informed as they should be.
The force has invested in more staff and resources in its safeguarding investigation units to ensure high-quality investigations and continued improvement of support to vulnerable people.
The force continues to build strong partnerships with other organisations, and works constructively with them to ensure victims get the services they need to protect and support them.
The force has a good understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime. As well as having its own dedicated capability to tackle serious organised crime, it is well supported by high skilled and experienced staff from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit, which provides specialist skills and resources to disrupt the organised crime groups that operate at a regional level. The force leadership has strong oversight of the force’s ability to respond to national threats, such as terrorism, national cyber-crime incidents and child sexual abuse. Its own arrangements for ensuring it can meet its national obligations in this regard (such as planning, testing and exercising) are good.
How effective is the force at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and keeping people safe?
Sussex Police is generally good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. However, the changes the force is making to the way it organises neighbourhood policing are reducing its ability to maintain the former level of its focus on preventive activities. As this was previously an area of strength for the force, HMIC will monitor the continuing impact of the new ways of working.
Sussex has lower levels of crime and anti-social behaviour than in England and Wales as a whole, and the county has seen good reductions in incidents of anti-social behaviour over recent years. The force and the police and crime commissioner have made crime and anti-social behaviour prevention priorities in their high-level plans. Neighbourhood teams use a broad range of tactics to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour and keep people safe. However, there is a lack of clarity among staff about how important their preventive policing activities are, compared other force priorities and calls on their time. The force also needs to do more to understand what works when using different tactics.
As part of the force’s response to managing with reduced funding, it developed a new way of working to provide policing in the future. This has a significant reduction in the resources dedicated to neighbourhood policing. The force has begun a phased implementation of its new local policing arrangements. The impact of staffing reductions is already being seen, with fewer staff covering larger areas. Vacancies in neighbourhood teams are not being filled when staff leave, and officers are regularly being taken away from neighbourhood duties to support other police work, with preventive work being seen as less of a priority. The force needs to consider how best to ensure that policing services can continue to achieve the force priorities during this period of change.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour is a routine part of neighbourhood policing activity.
- 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 should be routine evaluation of tactics and sharing of effective practice.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and managing offenders?
Sussex Police’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders is good. HMIC is encouraged that the force has made good progress in improving its approach to crime investigations. Processes for the initial investigation and allocation of most crimes work well. The standard of investigations has improved as well as the workloads carried by investigators being more manageable.
Forensic and digital specialists are used effectively to support successful investigations. However, despite the force having taken some steps to improve the situation, delays continue in the forensic examination of digital devices in criminal investigations. There are still large backlogs in the high tech crime unit, which means that some victims are not getting the level of service they need as prosecutions are being delayed.
The force identifies vulnerable offenders and works well with partner organisations to divert them from further offending. The force’s processes for working with partner organisations to identify, monitor, and work with repeat and dangerous offenders to stop them re-offending also generally work well.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all those carrying out investigations are provided with appropriate training and support.
- 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.
How effective is the force at protecting from harm those who are vulnerable, and supporting victims?
HMIC found that Sussex Police provides a good service in identifying vulnerable people and responds well to them, so the public can be confident that the police in Sussex provide good services that protect and support many victims. We found a clear commitment to protecting vulnerable people from both the force and the police and crime commissioner. The force has effective processes in place to ensure that it identifies vulnerable people as soon as possible and consistently assesses the risks posed to vulnerable victims well.
Sussex Police has invested in more staff and resources in its safeguarding investigation units to ensure high-quality investigations and continued improvement of support to vulnerable people. The force has continued to build strong partnerships with other organisations, and works constructively with them to ensure victims get the services they need to protect and support them.
Officers see keeping people safe as a priority and understand the importance of their role in properly assessing and managing the risks posed to victims, especially with those who are particularly vulnerable such as victims of domestic abuse and children. This inspection has only considered how well-prepared the force is to tackle child sexual exploitation. The force has made a good start in ensuring it is well prepared to tackle child sexual exploitation and must now build on this initial approach.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangement for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities?
Sussex Police is generally good at identifying and tackling serious and organised crime in its area. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their effectiveness at tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangements for ensuring that it can fulfil its national policing requirements, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
The force has a good understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime. It has developed local serious organised crime profiles, which it has shared with partner organisations, the force recognises that the profiles would be enhanced by greater input from information from partners and is planning to develop them further. There is effective multi-agency involvement when responding to organised crime groups. This approach could also be used when preventing people from becoming involved in serious organised crime.
Sussex Police has access to an extensive range of specialist policing capabilities provided by the South East regional organised crime unit, as well as retaining some of its own capacity. It is seeking to enhance its ability to prevent serious and organised crime by participating in a peer review of how it tackles gang and violence.
The force has robust arrangements in place to satisfy itself that it is fulfilling its national policing responsibilities.
Areas for improvement
- The force should add relevant data from partner agencies to its serious and organised crime local profile, and ensure that it has a local partnership structure in place with responsibility for tackling 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.