Gloucestershire PEEL 2016
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Gloucestershire Constabulary requires improvement in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our overall judgment this year is the same as last year, when we judged the force to require improvement in respect of effectiveness. Although some improvements have been made against HMIC’s 2015 recommendations, progress in other areas has been slow, and insufficient to warrant an improved grade. The force needs to improve its approach to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, its investigative standards and the protection it provides to vulnerable people. Its management of serious and organised crime is inadequate and must be addressed urgently.
Overall, Gloucestershire Constabulary requires improvement at keeping people safe and reducing crime. The force does not use intelligence well to identify threat or risk of harm within its communities, and its problem-solving activity lacks consistency. Neighbourhood officers are regularly reassigned to cover reactive duties, taking them away from their routine preventative work. This has a negative impact on their ability to conduct problem-solving activity and limits their ability to protect the public from harm over the long term.
There is a clear distinction between investigative standards in specialist CID departments and frontline uniform officers. With the exception of the Public Protection Bureau (PPB), a specialist CID unit which investigates crime associated with vulnerable victims, the process for allocating crime for investigation is unstructured and creates a risk that some victims will not receive the service they deserve. Although the force is addressing these problems through an improvement programme, progress is too slow.
The force has improved the service it provides to protect vulnerable victims, but it needs to do more. Its arrangements for monitoring sex offenders and violent offenders are effective, but there are weaknesses in its management of individuals who are wanted by the force.
The force’s response to serious and organised crime is inadequate and its overall position has declined. Although the force has made some progress in specific areas, it lacks basic arrangements for tackling serious and organised crime effectively. It has therefore been assessed as a lower grade than was assigned in HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness report, when we judged the force to require improvement.
During the 2015 inspection, we identified a cause of concern that the force lacked basic processes for identifying and tackling organised crime. This cause of concern remains, and the force must urgently improve the way it identifies and disrupts organised crime groups. Since HMIC’s last inspection, it has failed to respond to our recommendations. No structured threat assessment process has been introduced, engagement with partner organisations (such as local authorities or health and education services) is still insufficient and the force has failed to implement an effective approach to managing organised crime groups over their active lifespan. Without these basic arrangements, organised crime groups will continue to present a threat to communities in Gloucestershire.
The force has adequate leadership arrangements in place for ensuring its readiness to respond to national threats and to test its capabilities. In addition, the force has thoroughly assessed its response to the threat of an attack requiring an armed response, and has made good progress to increase its firearms capability.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Gloucestershire Constabulary requires improvement in respect of how it prevents crime, tackles anti-social behaviour and keeps people safe. The force lacks a comprehensive understanding of all the threats and risk facing its communities because it has not completed strategic research in this area. By contrast, its research profiles on certain types of crime, including child sexual exploitation and modern slavery, are thorough and informative.
Neighbourhood teams are at the centre of the force’s approach to working with communities, and these teams communicate well with local people through a range of communication methods. The force also uses a range of tactics and powers to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour. However, reassigning neighbourhood officers to 999/101 response duties limits their ability to plan and undertake preventative activities. This limitation is further exacerbated by the lack of a consistent approach to problem solving at a local level and the absence of a central repository of good practice information.
Areas for improvement
- The force should introduce a detailed threat assessment process to enable it fully to understand the threats facing its communities.
- The force should adopt a structured and consistent problem-solving process to enable it to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour more effectively. Problem-solving activity should be evaluated regularly to enable the force to focus its efforts on the most effective approaches.
- The force should ensure that its focus on crime prevention is not undermined by the redeployment of neighbourhood officers and staff to undertake reactive duties away from their assigned neighbourhood area.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Gloucestershire Constabulary’s approach to investigating crime and managing offenders requires improvement. This is consistent with the findings of HMIC’s 2015 inspection. The force has not made enough progress in this area and further improvement is required before it can be judged as good.
The force’s approach to allocating crime for investigation is inconsistent. This means that in some cases, investigators do not have the right skills and experience to manage the complexity of the investigation. Exceptions to this can be found in the PPB, where its development of a domestic abuse matrix brings assurance that the victim’s level of risk determines which investigator is assigned to the case. There is a clear distinction between the standards investigated in the PPB/CID domain and those at local policing level. Supervision of cases in PPB/CID is also good. By contrast, standards of investigation and supervision at a local policing level are inconsistent. The force’s Crime Management Investigation Standards (CMIS) programme identifies the work streams needed to improve this situation. However, HMIC is concerned that, despite the publication of very clear areas for improvement in early 2016, the force’s progress is slow in this area and that in some cases victims do not receive the right level of service.
The force is good at protecting the public from the most prolific, serious and dangerous offenders. It has an established integrated offender management scheme, but its focus is narrow, concentrating on offenders who commit large volumes of offences rather than those who cause the most harm. The force works well with other organisations to manage the most dangerous offenders and registered sex offenders.
HMIC is concerned about the management of individuals who are wanted by the force or have been named by victims as suspected of committing a crime. The force does not have a central process for progressing and prioritising the arrest of all wanted persons.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all evidence is retrieved at the first opportunity in order to maximise the likelihood of investigations being concluded successfully.
- The force should ensure that all crimes are allocated promptly to investigators with the appropriate skills, qualifications and access to support, in order to conduct investigations to a good standard.
- 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 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 ensure that those who are circulated as wanted on the police national computer, those who fail to appear on police bail, those who are named as having committed crime and suspects identified through forensic evidence are swiftly located and arrested.
- The force should consider widening its approach to integrated offender management; offenders who present harm in communities should be considered for inclusion in the programme as well as those who offend regularly.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Gloucestershire Constabulary requires improvement in how it protects those who are vulnerable from harm and supports victims. The force has made progress in some areas, but its understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability is hindered by a lack of analytical capacity. The force has developed assessments of vulnerability, for example vulnerable adults and modern-day slavery, but nevertheless these do not include data held by partner organisations.
HMIC is assured that victims subject to repeat victimisation will be identified by the force at the first point of contact. Call handlers and frontline staff can identify the different features which can lead to an individual being vulnerable. However, HMIC believes a wider understanding of repeat victimisation would encourage staff to look proactively for hidden vulnerability. We are however reassured that officers who initially attend an incident do all they can to protect victims against further exposure to harm by arresting perpetrators.
The force has effective procedures in place to fast-track cases to other agencies to provide further support to victims. Daily multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) meetings, domestic violence conferences and multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) consider all referrals and start devising safety plans. The force has successfully configured its investigative resources into specialist teams to prioritise high-risk investigations. The force makes good use of Clare’s Law to inform individuals of the violent past history of their partners. More could be done however to use other preventative legislation to protect victims.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all officers and staff understand clearly and apply the force’s agreed definition of vulnerability.
- The force should enhance its understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability in the county by sharing information more effectively with partner organisations.
- The force should ensure that response officers are aware of the range of safeguarding options available to protect vulnerable victims when they first attend to them.
- The force should review its use of preventative legislation to ensure that it is making best use of these powers in order to safeguard victims of domestic abuse.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Gloucestershire Constabulary’s approach to tackling serious and organised crime is inadequate. Since HMIC’s last inspection, the force has made limited progress against the recommendations made and failed to address the cause of concern identified in 2015. It has failed to establish a structured approach to threat assessment at a strategic level and has not developed serious and organised crime local profiles with partner organisations. As a consequence, the force cannot demonstrate a sufficient understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime, and it lacks the ability to prioritise activity against organised crime groups systematically or objectively. The force also lacks a countywide partnership board structure which would bring a range of organisations together to work against organised crime.
Current force priorities remain concentrated on traditional areas such as Class A drugs and burglary, with too little progress being made in new and emerging crimes. The force needs to develop a better understanding of the links between organised crime and vulnerability.
OCG mapping, in procedural terms, is carried out correctly and in accordance with national guidance. Additionally, the force has made concerted efforts to ensure that all mapped OCGs are subject to regular scrutiny and oversight.
The force is developing its understanding of the different pathways into a life of organised crime. It also has several established projects across the county aimed at helping young people avoid a life of crime.
HMIC found evidence of effective communication with the public about organised crime together with examples of successful outcomes and preventative messages publicised across a range of different media.
Cause of concern
It is a cause of concern to HMIC that Gloucestershire Constabulary does not have essential processes in place to help it understand the threat from serious and organised crime, or to provide an effective multi-agency response to this type of offending. This is a particular concern as many of the shortcomings were set out in detail in HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness inspection, yet little has been done to address them.
The force should immediately take steps to:
- implement a structured process for assessing serious and organised crime threats, including so-called newer threats such as organised child sexual exploitation and modern slavery;
- produce a serious and organised crime local profile in conjunction with partner organisations to enhance its understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime;
- 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;
- enhance its ability to gather and use intelligence from a range of sources to develop its understanding of serious and organised crime;
- complete an action plan that sets out the steps it will take to maximise the use of regional organised crime unit capabilities, minimise duplication at force level, and ensure that the use of shared ROCU resources is prioritised effectively between forces in the south west region; and
- enhance its approach to the ‘lifetime management’ of organised criminals, to minimise the risk they pose to local communities. This approach should include routine consideration of preventative orders, the enforcement powers of other organisations and other tools to deter organised criminals from continuing to offend.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Gloucestershire Constabulary has yet to complete detailed analysis of the main threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement, but it does have detailed operational plans for addressing these threats. It regularly tests these plans and assesses its capabilities in response to a range simulated incidents in an exercise programme. The programme includes testing the force’s ability to maintain its principal functions should a major incident happen.
The force is well prepared to respond to a firearms attack. As part of the tri-force arrangement with Wiltshire Police and Avon and Somerset Constabulary, it has recently reviewed the assessment of threat, risk and harm, which sets out the capabilities required of armed officers in the region. A plan is under way to accelerate training and increase skills in order to improve the force’s capacity for responding to armed threats.