Surrey PEEL 2015
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Surrey Police requires improvement in its approach to keeping people safe and reducing crime.
The way it prevents crime and anti-social behaviour is good. But the quality of some crime investigations requires improvement. The force works well to stop some re-offending and it has good arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities. However, Surrey Police’s approach to tackling serious and organised crime requires improvement in some specific areas. Of concern is the force’s inadequate approach to protecting and supporting some vulnerable victims, especially children who have been subject to abuse. 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 found that the force is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. Force priorities reflect a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to crime and anti-social behaviour in Surrey. A commitment to keeping people safe, supporting victims, and working effectively with partner organisations are themes that run clearly throughout neighbourhood policing.
There has been some improvement in the quality of investigations of volume crimes such as burglary. However, the way the force investigates more complex crime requiring specialist investigations, particularly cases of child abuse and missing children, is not good enough. Investigations are taking longer to conclude than they should and are not being effectively supervised. The force is not providing a good enough service to protect some of the most vulnerable victims or to bring offenders to justice.
The force works well to identify, investigate and bring to justice repeat and dangerous offenders and stop them re-offending.
There is scope for the force to improve its understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime, and ensure that procedures for mapping organised crime groups are followed rigorously. The leadership has oversight of the force’s ability to respond to national threats, such as terrorism and serious cyber-crime incidents. 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?
Surrey Police is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. HMIC’s crime inspection 2014 also judged the force to be good at reducing crime and preventing offending.
Force priorities reflect a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to crime and anti-social behaviour in Surrey. A commitment to keeping people safe and supporting victims and working with partner organisations are themes that run clearly throughout neighbourhood policing. These commitments are well understood across the force, and police officers and staff working in local neighbourhood teams are well trained and sufficiently skilled in preventing problems from occurring or from escalating.
The force has the right systems and processes in place at force and neighbourhood level, alongside a range of powers and tactics, to work together with partner organisations to tackle anti-social behaviour and keep people safe.
The force has implemented some good initiatives to prevent crime, anti-social behaviour and keep people safe, including regular joint partnership action days with the local authorities, fire and rescue services and neighbourhood watch and the development of joint police and local authority enforcement teams that work together to resolve more complex anti-social behaviour problems.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and managing offenders?
Surrey Police’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders requires improvement. In HMIC’s crime inspection in 2014, we also found that the way the force investigated offending required improvement. There has been some improvement in the quality of investigations of volume crimes such as burglary. However the way the force investigates more complex crime requiring specialist investigations, particularly cases of child abuse, is not good enough. Investigations are taking longer to conclude than they should and are not always being supervised effectively.
In addition, because of backlogs, there are long delays in the time taken to examine computers and mobile phones forensically for evidence in prosecution cases. This means that the force may be losing opportunities to bring offenders to justice and protect victims in the most timely way.
However, levels of victim satisfaction with the services of Surrey Police remain above the average for England and Wales. Victims are kept well informed as investigations progress.
The force identifies vulnerable offenders and makes efforts to divert them from re- offending. The force’s ways of working with partner organisations to identify, monitor and work with repeat and dangerous offenders to stop them re-offending also 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 ensure that all investigations are completed to a consistently good standard, and in a timely manner.
- The force should ensure that there is regular and active supervision of investigations to check quality and progress.
- 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 has significant concerns about the capability and capacity of Surrey Police to safeguard vulnerable people and investigate crimes committed against these vulnerable people. We found serious weaknesses in the force’s arrangements for protecting vulnerable people from harm and in supporting victims.
The force has prioritised protecting vulnerable people and recognises the importance of identifying vulnerable victims as early as possible and properly assessing the risks they face. However, the force’s current systems and practices are unreliable and ineffective. We found inconsistencies in the way it assesses risks and carries out investigations which means that vulnerable people may not always get the response from the police that is needed to keep them safe. The force needs to take urgent action, particularly where children are at risk, to ensure it improves and supervises properly its services.
The force has made some promising progress in beginning to tackle child sexual exploitation and needs to continue this work to ensure it can identify proactively offenders and protect children at risk.
The way the force deals with reports of missing children is poor. We found evidence of an inconsistent and poor approach to decision-making which resulted in high-risk cases often being graded lower than they should be. This meant they were not being dealt with by the right people with the right skills or with sufficient urgency to therefore properly protect vulnerable children.
As a consequence of the causes of concern and areas for improvement set out in our PEEL: Police effectiveness 2015 (Vulnerability) – Surrey Police report, HMIC has revisited the force to assess the progress made since the initial inspection in these areas.
Cause of concern
The force’s investigation and safeguarding of vulnerable victims is a cause of concern. There are weaknesses in the quality and consistency of child protection investigations and subsequent action to keep victims safe. The force needs to take urgent action to ensure services are improved and properly supervised. Accredited investigators within the safeguarding investigation units (SIUs) are fully trained but HMIC found examples of untrained staff investigating cases involving vulnerable people. The heavy workloads within the SIUs are having an impact on staff and affecting adversely the quality of service to some of the most vulnerable victims with whom the force deals. Lack of capacity is resulting in delays to investigations and an inability to provide a consistently good standard of service.
The force acts to improve child abuse investigations, with particular attention to:
- staff awareness, knowledge and investigative skills;
- prompt responses to concerns raised;
- risk assessments that consider the totality of a child’s circumstances and risks to other children;
- capacity of its investigators; and
- its audit, supervision and management of cases.
Cause of concern
The force’s response to missing and absent children is a cause of concern. The force has a poor understanding of the scale and nature of the issue as it has only partially analysed information held by the force and partner agencies. Understanding the reasons why children repeatedly go missing from home and working jointly with other services to prevent further incidents can provide a much more effective approach to safeguarding and managing the risks.
Staff are not always clear as to what the process is, and consequently who is ultimately responsible for the investigation. This lack of clarity may lead to investigations not being as effective as possible. Risk assessments are not consistently carried out and supervisors display a poor understanding of risk factors when completing and reviewing risk assessments of missing children, leading to inconsistent decisions and inappropriate grading.
- To address this cause of concern, the force should review immediately its approach to reports of missing children, specifically those who persistently go missing or absent, and ensure it puts in place measures to understand the issue, risk-assess reports and carry out appropriate investigations and safeguarding activity.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve the way it identifies, assesses and responds to risk and vulnerability by ensuring its contact staff consistently use processes available to support decision-making and that information from systems is consistently made available to attending officers.
- The force 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 force should improve the way it works with partner organisations to share information and safeguard vulnerable people, specifically in relation to making referrals to other organisations of children at risk.
- The force should improve its response to children at risk of sexual exploitation by ensuring it understands the nature and scale of child sexual exploitation; and that its officers provide the appropriate safeguarding support to children assessed as at medium and high risk.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime, including its arrangement for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities?
There are a number of positive features of the way in which Surrey Police tackles serious and organised crime. It carries out regular enforcement activity against organised crime groups and has access to a good range of effective specialist policing capabilities provided by the South East regional organised crime unit.
The force also has robust arrangements in place to satisfy itself that it is fulfilling its national policing responsibilities.
However, the force’s approach to tackling serious and organised crime requires improvement in some areas. The force would have been assessed as good in this area were it not for three specific shortcomings which, taken together, limit the force’s ability to tackle serious and organised crime.
First, there is scope for the force to develop its strategic understanding of the threat posed by organised crime groups operating in the county. Although Surrey Police has taken steps to enhance its ability to assess so-called ‘newer’ threats such as child sexual exploitation, it has yet to develop a full and sophisticated picture of organised criminal activity in conjunction with partner organisations.
Second, we found some occasions when organised crime group mapping procedures have not been applied correctly. This limits the force’s ability to understand threats and prioritise its activity against the most serious organised crime groups.
Third, the force should enhance its ability to tackle serious and organised crime by ensuring that safer neighbourhood teams play a routine, active part in collecting intelligence and disrupting the activity of organised crime groups.
This is the first year HMIC has graded forces on their effectiveness at tackling serious and organised crime, including a force’s arrangements for ensuring that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities, so no year-on-year comparison is possible.
Areas for improvement
- The force should develop a fuller and more sophisticated understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime, drawing on relevant data from partner agencies.
- The force should ensure that the correct mapping procedures are applied to all organised crime groups, in line with national standards.
- The force should enhance its local response to organised crime groups by ensuring that safer neighbourhood teams play a routine, active part in collecting intelligence and disrupting their activity.