Hertfordshire 2014Read more about Hertfordshire 2014
This is the first PEEL Assessment of Hertfordshire Constabulary. In making this assessment I have used my professional judgment to consider the evidence available from inspections undertaken in the past 12 months.
The available evidence indicates that:
in terms of its effectiveness, in general, the force is good at reducing crime and preventing offending, good at investigating crime and good at tackling anti-social behaviour. Although I had some specific concerns about its approach to domestic abuse, there have been improvements since the initial inspection;
the efficiency with which the force carries out its responsibilities is good; and
the force is acting to achieve fairness and legitimacy in some of its practices that were examined this year.
Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
In making this first PEEL Assessment of Hertfordshire Constabulary I have taken into account the challenges to policing a densely populated county to the north of London.
Hertfordshire is a relatively prosperous county with one of the lowest crime rates in the country. The standard of living is mostly high, unemployment is low and residents are generally healthy, well educated and well paid. However there are some areas of relative deprivation, disadvantage and social exclusion.
I have been impressed that Hertfordshire Constabulary has invested in crime prevention initiatives which have had a positive effect in terms of keeping levels of crime down and protecting the public from harm. The force is focused on the needs of victims, and ensures that the quality of victim contact is largely consistent. The victim satisfaction rate in Hertfordshire is higher than England and Wales as a whole. The investigation of crime is of a good standard and the force works well with partners, such as local council and the probation services, to tackle prolific burglars.
I am encouraged that anti-social behaviour is a priority for the force and is well integrated within daily activity in neighbourhood teams. Victims of anti-social behaviour are carefully assessed so that they can receive an appropriate service from the police.
I have also been impressed with the well-established joint working arrangements with Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary. The force is very well placed to be able to continue to provide an effective service to the public while reducing its costs further. The force is working to improve understanding of the demand it faces, and plans to manage this demand through its collaboration with the other forces.
Despite these positives I have serious concerns about the force’s approach to crime-recording, which is not as accurate as it should be.
I also had concerns about the service provided to some domestic abuse victims – in particular, the disjointed approach the force had to victims assessed as being at some risk of harm. However, I am encouraged by the progress made by the force in response to our initial inspection.
Our intention is to examine leadership specifically as part of future PEEL Assessments, once criteria have been established. This will allow us to take account of the College of Policing review of leadership that is currently underway.
Over the past 12 months, there have been a number of inspections made of Hertfordshire Constabulary that have suggested a number of recurrent issues, including the need for better supervision and training of staff and officers.
I will be particularly interested to see how the force responds to the areas HMIC has identified for improvement over the next 12 months. In particular, I will be monitoring how successful the force is in improving the accuracy of its crime-recording practices.
How well the force tackles crime
Hertfordshire Constabulary, in general, is good at reducing crime and preventing offending. The force is good at investigating crime. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.
Hertfordshire has invested in crime prevention initiatives which have had a positive effect in terms of keeping crime levels down and protecting the public from harm.
The force is focused on the needs of victims, and has implemented good arrangements for ensuring that the quality of victim contact is consistent. The victim satisfaction rate in Hertfordshire is higher than the figure for England and Wales.
The force understands vulnerability, and a broad range of tactics is used appropriately to tackle crime. However, its partnership engagement could be improved in relation to youth crime and youth anti-social behaviour. Vulnerable adult victims in particular would benefit from the formation of at least one multi-agency safeguarding hub in Hertfordshire.
Investigation of crime in the county is of a good standard. Integrated offender management is effective at tackling prolific burglars. Anti-social behaviour is a priority for the force and is well integrated within daily activity in neighbourhood teams. Victims of anti-social behaviour are risk assessed carefully, and the ‘SafetyNet’ system functions well as a tool for managing cases. The system could be used more widely by partners, and more fully exploited as a means of capturing ‘what works’.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that victims who were assessed as high risk received support and safety planning from specialist officers. However, the inspection found that there was a disjointed approach for medium and standard-risk cases. The crime inspection found evidence that Hertfordshire had made good progress to improve its response to domestic abuse.
The crime inspection found a focus on offenders rather than offences enabled the force to exploit a fuller range of tactical options in order to combat crime, e.g. an organised criminal could be pursued for traffic offences in order to disrupt their activity. The value for money inspection found the force had recognised that resources needed to be allocated to new areas of demand, such as child sexual exploitation and cyber-crime.
The Strategic Policing Requirement inspection found that Hertfordshire had, or had access to through collaboration with other forces regionally, the necessary capability to tackle terrorism, civil emergency, serious organised crime and public disorder, but not a large-scale cyber incident.
How well the force delivers value for money
Hertfordshire Constabulary has impressive and well-established joint working arrangements with Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary. The force is very well-placed to be able to continue to provide an effective service to the public while reducing its costs further.
Hertfordshire is on track to achieve its required savings of £35.8m over this review period. Importantly, the force is also looking to 2015/16 and beyond, and it is planning now for further funding reductions and financial pressures in the future.
The force understands the issues it is facing, and has change programmes in place that will lead to increased collaboration with Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary.
Through the tri-force IT change programme, known as Metis, the forces plan to make further savings and protect frontline posts as new technology and streamlined processes appreciably improve the productivity of police officers and staff.
The force is working to improve understanding of the demand it faces, and plans to manage this demand through collaboration with other forces. This includes control room, custody and criminal justice functions (operational support) and its human resources, finance and IT functions (organisational support), supported by the work of Programme Metis.
The force is achieving the savings required and it is planning well for the future, while continuing to reduce crime and retain high levels of victim satisfaction.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
Hertfordshire Constabulary, working with both Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary, has developed a joint professional standards department (PSD) that has been in place for 18 months. The three forces in this strategic alliance are continuing to develop their joint policies and procedures to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how they jointly manage and respond to unprofessional behaviour, misconduct and corruption. However, there is currently insufficient capacity to prevent, reduce and investigate corruption matters effectively.
Further insights on legitimacy
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (12 months to March 2013) found that the proportion of respondents who think that the force does an excellent/good job was greater than the figure across England and Wales. The same survey over the same period also found that the proportion that agrees the force deals with local concerns was greater than the figure for England and Wales. The force’s own victim satisfaction survey (12 months to June 2014) found that the proportion of victims that were satisfied with their experience was greater than the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found that most frontline staff, including call-takers, understood the need to have a victim-centred approach and display it in their everyday work. The domestic abuse inspection found that there were good systems in the force control room to identify victims of domestic abuse, and staff were trained to question callers to establish the nature of the call, and the level of risk to the victim. However, available information was often not passed to attending officers which meant they had an incomplete understanding of the threat of harm to a victim or their children as they arrived at the scene.
As a result of the crime data integrity inspection, HMIC is seriously concerned that a notable proportion of reports of crime are not being recorded, and this means that victims of crime are not receiving the service they should when they first report a crime. However, HMIC is impressed with the accuracy of the decisions taken by the force when making no-crime decisions (cancelling a recorded crime), nearly all of which are correct.