Hampshire PEEL 2016
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Hampshire Constabulary requires improvement in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our overall judgment is a deterioration on last year, when we judged the force to be good.
The force should be commended for its commitment to neighbourhood policing and it has improved how it tackles serious and organised crime. It generally protects vulnerable people well. However, HMIC has serious concerns about the way in which the force is supporting some victims of domestic abuse. The force needs to take action to address the low arrest rates for domestic abuse related crimes and the disproportionately high number of investigations that are not progressing due to the victim not supporting police action.
Hampshire Constabulary requires improvement overall in its effectiveness. Since our 2015 inspection the performance of the force has deteriorated in some important areas, especially in the way that it responds to some victims of domestic abuse.
Overall the force is good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. Its successful approach in these areas is based on a collaborative problem-solving approach, which involves working closely and sharing information with partner agencies such as local authorities, housing associations and health services. This helps the force to understand the threats facing its communities, keep people safe, and successfully reduce anti-social behaviour.
The force is to be commended for its commitment to neighbourhood policing. It engages very well with the community and uses tailored methods (such as formal public consultation meetings, less formal events such as ‘coffee with cops’ and social media) to make sure that it understands and responds to the public’s needs. The force is good at identifying and using best practice and is putting more sophisticated methods in place to review success.
However, HMIC has significant concerns about the way that the force responds to some vulnerable victims. It has unacceptably low arrest rates for crimes relating to domestic abuse and a very high proportion (over 60 percent) of domestic abuse cases where cases do not proceed on the grounds that ‘the victim does not support police action’. The proportion of domestic abuse incidents that result in arrest or formal police action has reduced markedly over the last year and is now the lowest in England and Wales. This means that some victims of domestic abuse in Hampshire may not be receiving adequate support through the use of police powers of arrest, prosecution or out of court action; far fewer offenders are being brought to justice compared to the rate across England and Wales as a whole. The force would have been judged as inadequate overall in how it protects vulnerable people, had it not already identified the problem and started to take steps to address the concerns before our inspection began. There remains much for the force to do.
HMIC also has concerns about the force’s practice of conducting some domestic abuse risk assessments over the telephone rather than face-to-face. In some of the cases we examined, the full extent of the risk to the victim and any children involved was not fully identified, and actions taken to deal with the perpetrator were inappropriate. These failings present risks to victims which we drew to the attention of the force. We note that the force has now decided to suspend this practice.
Despite the concerns around how the force deals with some aspects of domestic abuse, protecting vulnerable people is a priority for the force. It is good at identifying people who might be vulnerable and staff have a good understanding of how to respond. The force works innovatively to protect some of the most vulnerable people and has robust systems to ensure those people vulnerable to sexual exploitation and who are suffering from mental illness are safeguarded.
The way in which Hampshire Constabulary investigates crime is another area that requires improvement, although its arrangements to prevent further offending by persistent offenders and to protect the public from dangerous offenders are good. The force’s performance in some important areas has deteriorated markedly since last year. The number of offenders who are arrested by the force has declined over the last 12 months and a smaller proportion of offenders are dealt with through the criminal justice system than in many other parts of England and Wales.
The force is good at tackling serious and organised crime with processes in place to identify relevant threats from serious and organised crime. It is increasing its use of partnership data to improve its understanding of these threats. Neighbourhood officers’ involvement both in tackling serious and organised crime and in raising awareness is particularly good. The force works well with other agencies and has initiatives in place to deter people from being drawn into serious and organised crime.
Hampshire Constabulary is well prepared to respond to national threats under The Strategic Policing Requirement and has appropriate exercise, testing and training arrangements in place at local, regional and national levels. The force works well with partner organisations and other forces in the region to coordinate its activities. It is very well prepared to respond to incidents requiring an armed response.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Hampshire Constabulary is good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe; some elements of its work in this area are outstanding. It has a good understanding of the threats facing its communities based on its own and partner agencies’ information.
Neighbourhood officers are allowed to concentrate on preventing and reducing crime and anti-social behaviour in their areas. They are well trained and increasingly communicate with groups less likely to engage with the police, adapting engagement methods if necessary, such as by making good use of social media.
Staff use a joint IT system well to work closely with partner agencies to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. In most cases, but not all, they use structured problem-solving models, and supervisory arrangements would benefit from greater consistency.
Neighbourhood officers have access to crime-prevention advice and resources that can be used to protect vulnerable people and prevent offending. Other parts of the force contribute to problem-solving activity, although this is not consistent across the entire organisation.
The force has started to use predictive policing to identify its most vulnerable locations. HMIC will be interested to see how the use of a harm index affects how the force deploys its resources.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve the consistency and supervision of its problem-solving process to enable it to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour more effectively.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Hampshire Constabulary requires improvement in how it investigates crime. Its performance in some important areas has deteriorated markedly since last year.
The number of offenders who are arrested and dealt with by the force has reduced during the past year, and it brings a smaller proportion of offenders to justice than most other forces in England and Wales. The force has the highest proportion of victims of crime in England and Wales who are not prepared to support an investigation by the force into the crime that they are a victim of. The proportion of reports of crime in which this occurs is unacceptable and the force needs to review this area to understand and address the reasons for this.
Staff in the force enquiry centre and control room provide a good response to victims of crime when they contact the police, and investigators in the resolution centre quickly identify urgent enquiries for completion. Response and patrol officers generally gather relevant evidence during the initial investigation, although the quality of information passed on to investigators is not always good enough. Supervision of ongoing investigations is not consistent and needs to be more frequent. The force continually monitors the workloads of staff in the investigation centres, recognising that staff feel under pressure, and has put in place a plan to provide additional investigative capacity.
Access to specialist investigators is satisfactory. The progress that the force has made to reduce the backlog of computers that require examination is positive, but more work needs to be done to reduce this to an acceptable level. Arrangements to prevent further offending by persistent offenders are both good, although staff experience some frustration about the ease of access to specialist surveillance capability.
Areas for improvement
- The force needs to ensure that it fully understands the reasons behind the reduction in the use of police powers to bring people to justice, and ensure that powers of arrest and use of the criminal justice system are used appropriately to support and protect current and potential future victims of offending behaviour.
- 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 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 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 take immediate steps to understand the reasons why such a high proportion of crimes (including those related to domestic abuse) fall into the outcome category ‘Evidential difficulties; victim does not support police action’, and rectify this to ensure that it is pursuing justice on behalf of victims. Hampshire Constabulary is one of several forces that have been asked to review its use of this outcome category. It is recommended that by 1 May 2017 the force should produce and submit to HMIC an action plan that sets out how it will:
- undertake a comprehensive analysis of the use of this outcome across the force area to fully understand why the force is an outlier and produce an accompanying report for scrutiny by HMIC by 1 June 2017;
- review the extent to which the force’s use of this outcome category is appropriate; and
- take steps to reduce the force’s reliance on this outcome category and improve outcomes for victims.
This action plan and subsequent report will be reviewed by HMIC and may prompt additional inspection revisits during 2017 in order to assess the force’s progress in adopting a more effective response in pursuing justice on behalf of victims.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Hampshire Constabulary is assessed as requiring improvement based on its current response to domestic abuse which is unacceptable. The practice of assessing the risk to some victims of domestic abuse over the phone, which the force has suspended, does not, in HMIC’s view, provide a suitable response to victims of domestic abuse.
In addition, HMIC is concerned about the very low levels of arrests for domestic abuse offences, criminal justice outcomes and the reduction in the use of domestic violence prevention notices.
Some victims of domestic abuse may have been failed because police officers did not take action to arrest the perpetrator. HMIC will be observing closely the success of plans to improve this situation.
Despite this, we know that protecting vulnerable people is important to Hampshire Constabulary. This is evident from the regular messages from senior leaders about the importance of safeguarding vulnerable people and the investment the force has made into training and deployment of specialist resources.
Officers and police staff are committed to protecting vulnerable people and, with the exception of the concerns we have detailed, about some aspects of how domestic abuse is managed, they display a good knowledge of how to identify and safeguard vulnerable people. The support provided by the force and its partner agencies to safeguard vulnerable people through its partnership arrangements is of a high quality.
The work that the force has done in the creation of a stalking and harassment clinic is innovative and noteworthy.
Cause of concern
The force’s current approach to domestic abuse is unacceptable. The proportion of victims who fail to support the investigation and the low use of police powers of arrest and prosecution is a cause of concern to HMIC.
- In order to improve the service it provides to victims of domestic abuse, offer the best possible protection and bring more perpetrators to justice, the force should immediately consider ways of increasing the use of arrest, ancillary orders and other available powers.
- To improve the service provided to victims of domestic abuse the force should immediately take steps to understand and address the reason behind why such a high proportion of victims of domestic abuse do not support the police investigation.
- In addition, the practice of conducting domestic abuse risk assessments over the telephone and dealing with domestic abuse in the resolution centre should cease.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Hampshire Constabulary is good at tackling serious and organised crime. It has adequate processes in place to identify relevant threats from serious and organised crime, but it needs to include partnership data in order to fully understand the threat from serious and organised crime.
Its processes for prioritising, mapping, scoring and reviewing organised crime groups are good. However, it has fewer organised crime groups per head of population than most other forces, and should reassure itself that it has a full understanding in this area, particularly of human trafficking.
It is disappointing that the force does not yet have a partnership board in place, although we note the steps taken towards this.
Officers who are responsible for managing the response to serious and organised crime have received training for this role. Management plans are well written and contain clear operational objectives. The impact of interventions against organised crime groups are assessed, but the force could do more to share learning from its activity.
The way in which neighbourhood officers are involved in both tackling and raising awareness of serious and organised crime is particularly good. The force is increasingly working with partner agencies in managing and disrupting organised crime groups and the frequency in which it disrupts organised crime groups is among the highest in England and Wales.
The force is increasing its use of ancillary orders to protect the public from serious and organised crime and we would encourage it to maintain this momentum.
Work to prevent people becoming involved in or victims of, serious and organised crime is generally good, with focused campaigns around child sexual exploitation and the use of neighbourhood officers of particular note.
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 to 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.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Hampshire Constabulary has the necessary arrangements in place to test its preparedness to deal with national threats, which include oversight from a responsible senior officer. The force has included partner and external agencies in developing its understanding and response, where appropriate.
Comprehensive testing and exercising arrangements also include partner organisations. Business continuity plans are in place to help the force meet the national policing requirements in the event of a major disruption to services and it has developed plans to protect its IT infrastructure from cyber-attack.
The force has conducted a thorough assessment of threats requiring an armed response. Following the Paris attacks, it reviewed its firearms threat assessment. Using mapping techniques, it identified that an increase in its capability was required to allow it to respond to attacks involving firearms within a defined timeframe across the force area. It has put measures in place to address this gap, identified resources to be redeployed and has already started recruiting and training additional resources. Staff with a role to play in the event of a marauding terrorist firearms attack are aware of their role. The force also carries out training and takes part in exercising events.