Hertfordshire PEEL 2015
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC judges Hertfordshire Constabulary to be good overall in the way it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The constabulary works very well to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour and protects most victims well, but improvement is needed in the way vulnerable people are protected from harm. The constabulary’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders is also good. The constabulary works well to tackle serious and organised crime. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their overall effectiveness so comparison of their year-on-year effectiveness is not possible.
HMIC judges that overall Hertfordshire Constabulary is good in the way that it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
It is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. The constabulary is strongly committed to crime prevention, supporting victims, partnership working and keeping communities safe. Officers and staff work well with other organisations to solve problems in neighbourhoods, including intervening early to stop them from escalating.
While we found a few areas for improvement, including better use of out-of-court disposals the police can use to deal with anti-social behaviour and low-level crime, known as community resolutions, and how the force evaluates ‘what works’, the public can feel confident that the constabulary works well to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, and keep people safe. Hertfordshire has seen a slightly bigger reduction in police recorded crime over recent years than the average for England and Wales.
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s investigation of crime and the way in which it deals with offenders is generally good, although there are some inconsistencies in the quality and supervision of the constabulary’s initial crime investigations, which means that it may miss opportunities to gather the best evidence to bring offenders to justice at this important first stage. However, we did find that after the initial response, the quality of subsequent investigations is good because investigative staff are generally appropriately skilled and trained.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is generally good at identifying vulnerable people and often responds well initially to meet the needs of victims who are vulnerable. However, there are important areas where improvement is needed to ensure the service is consistent and that vulnerable people, particularly missing children, are kept safe.
The constabulary has a good understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime, and is good at disrupting the activity of organised crime groups operating in its area. Investigators of serious and organised crime are highly skilled and experienced, and the constabulary also benefits from additional specialist capacity provided through the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) which is a unit made up of specialist officers from all five forces in the region.
The leadership has strong oversight of the force’s ability to respond to national threats, such as terrorism, serious 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?
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and keeping people safe. This is consistent with HMIC’s 2014 crime inspection when the constabulary was also judged as good at reducing crime and preventing offending.
Crime prevention, supporting victims, partnership working and keeping people safe are all clearly important areas to the constabulary. Resources continue to be targeted at these areas and the constabulary’s commitment is well understood throughout the workforce.
HMIC found that, although Hertfordshire has increased the number of neighbourhood officers, however, neighbourhood officers continue to be regularly taken away from their neighbourhood duties to support the police response to calls and incidents. In some areas we found that the capacity of local safer neighbourhood teams does not always reflect the increase in local demand and may undermine the constabulary’s focus on prevention. The constabulary is aware of this and is reviewing local policing in response to the changes in demand and the need to achieve future savings; changes to resourcing are planned for the end of 2015.
Hertfordshire Constabulary recognises the added benefit from working together with local and regional partner organisations to provide a better service to the public by sharing information and joining-up the response, making best use of resources. Hertfordshire has the right systems and processes in place at constabulary-wide and neighbourhood levels, alongside a range of powers and tactics, to work with partner organisations to tackle anti-social behaviour and keep people safe. There is still some room for improvement in the way the constabulary systematically evaluates and uses evidence of what works to ensure it learns from best practice.
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 should be routine evaluation of tactics and sharing of effective practice.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and managing offenders?
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders is generally good. In HMIC’s 2014 crime inspection the constabulary was also judged as good in this area. There are some inconsistencies in the quality and supervision of the constabulary’s initial investigations, which mean that it risks missing opportunities to gather the best evidence to bring offenders to justice. This was also a HMIC recommendation in 2014.
Although we found weaknesses in the standard of some initial investigations, the quality of subsequent investigations is good as investigative staff are well trained and generally properly qualified. Investigation plans are generally thorough and well documented and we saw evidence of effective support and review by experienced supervisors.
The constabulary keeps victims well informed as its investigations progress and has effective systems in place to ensure that victims are kept updated at key stages throughout the investigation, such as when an offender has been arrested or bailed and when a court date has been set. Victim satisfaction rates in Hertfordshire remain consistently above the England and Wales average.
The constabulary identifies vulnerable offenders and makes efforts to divert them from further offending. While we found a few areas for improvement, the force’s processes for working with partner organisations to identify, monitor and work with repeat and dangerous offenders to stop them re-offending generally work well.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all investigations are completed to a consistently good standard, and in a timely manner.
- The force should ensure that all those carrying out investigations are provided with appropriate training and support.
How effective is the force at protecting from harm those who are vulnerable, and supporting victims?
Hertfordshire Constabulary generally provides a good service in identifying vulnerable people, and responds well to them. It has made good progress since last year, improving its approach to domestic abuse and setting up a county-wide multi-agency safeguarding hub to provide more effective joined-up services with partner organisations to safeguard children better.
We found that Hertfordshire Constabulary, at all levels, is strongly committed to improving its services to protect vulnerable people. The constabulary has invested extra resource into its specialist services that support those who are vulnerable and keep them safe. We found a strong focus on ensuring that vulnerable victims are identified early enough to ensure that the police response is appropriate.
However, the constabulary needs to improve its response to missing and absent children. We found good work from the small specialist team, but there is a lack of clarity over responsibilities for missing children among the majority of frontline staff. This poses a risk that the constabulary may not be managing effectively its investigations into missing children and work to understand and prevent vulnerable children from repeatedly going missing.
The constabulary has made a good start in ensuring that it is well-prepared to tackle child sexual exploitation and must now build on this initial approach with its partners.
Areas for improvement
- The constabulary should improve the investigation of cases involving vulnerable victims specifically in relation to the quality of investigations and their effective supervision.
- The constabulary should improve the consistency of its safeguarding of children who are the subject of protection plans by ensuring staff with appropriate skills and experience conduct visits as part of the agreement with Hertfordshire County Council.
- The constabulary should improve its compliance with the duties under the code of practice for victims of crime specifically in relation to victim personal statements and keeping victims informed regarding the progress of their case.
- The constabulary should improve its response to missing and absent children by ensuring that it develops further its understanding of the scale and nature of the issue. The constabulary should also ensure that its frontline staff and supervisors understand their roles and responsibilities for investigating and safeguarding, and that constabulary systems designed to support the management of cases are effectively used.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangement for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities?
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at identifying and tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangements for ensuring that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities. This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their effectiveness in these areas, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
The constabulary works well with local and national partner organisations and other forces in the region to prevent serious and organised crime. It has a well-developed understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime groups across Hertfordshire, through comprehensive analysis of serious and organised crime at district level. The constabulary is part of an effective multi-agency response to these types of crime, including work to prevent people from becoming involved in it. Hertfordshire Constabulary has access to an extensive range of specialist capabilities provided by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, to help the constabulary tackle serious and organised crime.
The constabulary has a well co-ordinated and effective method for tackling organised crime groups, with good processes to identify and disrupt the activities of these criminal groups. We saw some good early work with schools and universities to identify vulnerable young people who may be at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime.