Leicestershire PEEL 2016
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Leicestershire Police 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 is effective in some important areas of activity, such as neighbourhood policing and tackling serious and organised crime. However, some areas of weakness remain that were identified in HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness inspection. We found considerable inconsistencies in how well the force investigates crime and how effectively it protects those who are vulnerable and supports victims, particularly for crimes involving domestic abuse.
Leicestershire Police’s approach to preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour is good. The force uses a structured approach to solving problems and ensures that it evaluates the effectiveness of its response. Neighbourhood policing teams understand their local communities and work well with partner organisations, such as local councils. These teams make good use of social media to raise awareness of police services and activity, and for public safety messages. The force is continually broadening its approach to keeping people safe and preventing crime. For example, it has introduced digital police community support officers (PCSOs) to help to keep people safe online, and safeguarding PCSOs to work with the most vulnerable people, and it has a high-profile campaign to warn young people about the dangers of online activity.
However, the force’s effectiveness at investigating crime and reducing re-offending requires improvement. The force’s process for dealing with crime investigations is very complex, which often hampers its ability to investigate crimes effectively and in a timely manner. HMIC found that the force’s initial investigative response is too often not good enough. Its investigation process relies on cases being handed over from one officer to another and we found the quality and quantity of the evidential material within handovers is variable. Although complex and sensitive crimes are allocated to appropriate staff and are investigated well with good supervision, there is inconsistent supervision and structure of investigations for more common crimes. The proportion of investigations that result in charges and summons has declined since last year and is below the rate for England and Wales. The force does not fully understand the reasons for the decline in bringing offenders to justice.
Overall victim satisfaction rates continue to decline. The force needs to do more to maintain contact with victims during the course of the investigation and ensure that the views of the victim about the impact of the crime are properly recorded in victim personal statements.
Leicestershire Police’s effectiveness at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm and supporting victims also requires improvement. HMIC remains concerned by the force’s continued practice of downgrading risk in domestic abuse cases where the victim is initially identified as being at high risk of serious harm or death. We found about half of all high-risk cases were downgraded, which means fewer victims who were initially assessed as being at high risk of harm are having their cases referred to specialist staff to undertake the investigation. This also means that these victims do not then have access to the best available support from other organisations.
The force needs to do more to understand why its arrest rate for domestic abuse is considerably below the England and Wales rate, and why the proportion of arrests for domestic abuse leading to a charge or summons has also fallen over the last year.
Leicestershire Police’s effectiveness at tackling serious and organised crime is good. It has effective processes to identify and then investigate organised crime groups, and it prioritises its resources based on assessments of threat, harm, risk and vulnerability. The force works well with partner organisations and uses information from them to help its understanding of the effects of serious and organised crime on its communities. It supports several initiatives to help prevent people from becoming involved in, or returning to, serious and organised crime.
The force has good plans to respond to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement and undertakes regular exercises with other emergency services and the military.
The force is part of the East Midlands operational support services collaboration, which has adequately assessed the threat of an attack requiring an armed response. Plans are in place to increase the force’s firearms capability by March 2017.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Leicestershire Police is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour, which is consistent with the findings in our inspection in 2015.
We found a distinct and effective approach to neighbourhood policing made up of teams that understand their local communities and have effective working relationships with partner organisations. Police officers are occasionally taken away from their main duties, but otherwise invest all their time in meeting local priorities.
The force uses a structured approach to solving problems experienced by communities, carrying out remedial activity in partnership with other agencies, including local councils.
It uses a wide range of methods to understand what issues are important to the public. Neighbourhood teams are quick to respond to changes in the composition of their local community. They use new technology and social media well to promote public safety, demonstrate the results of their activity and raise awareness of police services as far as possible throughout the community.
The introduction of digital and safeguarding PCSOs to work specifically with the most vulnerable people, and a high-profile campaign to warn young people about the possible dangers of online activity, show how the force continually broadens its approach to keeping people safe and preventing crime.
Areas for improvement
- The force should use evidence of ‘what works’ drawn from other forces, academics and partners to continually improve its approach to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. There needs to be routine evaluation of tactics and discussion of effective practice.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Leicestershire Police requires improvement in investigating crime and reducing re-offending. The force needs to improve how it investigates crime. It has a very complex process for dealing with crime investigations and this often hampers the force in its ability to investigate crimes effectively and in a timely manner. The proportion of investigations carried out by the force resulting in charges and summons has notably declined since last year and is below the rate for England and Wales.
The initial investigative response by the force is inconsistent. While incidents are assessed using a structured approach to identify the severity of the situation and to draw out potential lines of enquiry for an investigation, the outcome of that assessment is irregularly recorded. We found that advice to victims to preserve evidence is not always given, and that some crime investigations are closed without police attendance, meaning that evidential opportunities are being lost.
The force’s approach to carrying out investigations relies on handovers of information, and we found the quality of these to be variable with shortfalls in both quantity and quality of evidential material being common. Complex and sensitive crimes are investigated well, with good supervision, and are allocated to appropriate staff. In the more commonly occurring types of crime, there is notably less effective supervision and structure throughout the investigation. This is in contrast to our inspection in 2015 that found investigation to be generally good and supervision to be thorough.
The force has taken steps to improve the use of victim personal statements, but more needs to be done. Our crime file review found good standards of victim care during the more complex and sensitive investigations. However, overall victim satisfaction rates continue to decline and staff are not clear about their responsibility to maintain contact with victims.
The force is good at seeking to arrest people that present a high risk towards others, but does not deal actively with other outstanding suspects nor produce performance information to inform this activity. Its management of offenders is effective and conducted well, in full partnership with other agencies.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve its initial assessment and response to incidents by ensuring that staff understand and apply the THRIVE decision-making model consistently. This assessment should be used to determine an appropriate response to ensure that victims are kept safe.
- 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, named and outstanding suspects, and suspects identified through forensic evidence are swiftly located and arrested.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Leicestershire Police requires improvement in protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims. The force needs to do more to develop its understanding of the nature and scale of risk faced by vulnerable people in the community. It uses several problem profiles but they are restricted in value by using only police-held information, leaving the force unaware of the full impact of these risks.
Staff consider that dealing with vulnerability is a priority for the force; however, the way in which staff interpret the term ‘vulnerability’ varies. The force recognises that this inconsistency can affect the way staff recognise and react when a person is vulnerable.
Frontline staff are good at carrying out assessments of risk during the initial response to an incident. However, backlogs of incidents in the incident management unit are not always prioritised for action on the basis of vulnerability, meaning that delays in carrying out a full risk-assessment can occur.
The force persists with making secondary assessments of those DASH (domestic abuse, stalking, harassment and so-called honour-based violence) risk assessments initially graded as high risk, frequently resulting in them being downgraded to medium or standard risk. It is not clear why this happens but to achieve effective safeguarding for domestic abuse victims, the force must take action to minimise inaccurate initial assessments and ensure that all high-risk cases receive the investigation and support that befit the circumstances.
Leicestershire Police investigates offences involving vulnerable people to a variable standard. Investigations of high-risk cases are carried out well by specialist teams, but there is less consistency in the quality of investigations for cases assessed as presenting less risk.
Good multi-agency safeguarding arrangements are in place with many partner organisations working alongside police staff in the same building. However, the force’s referral rate of cases to the multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) is notably below the rate for England and Wales, and this is directly linked to the volume of domestic abuse cases that are being downgraded. This position has not improved since last year and remains a concern.
The proportion of arrests made in domestic abuse related crimes is notably below the England and Wales rate and has fallen since last year. The proportion of domestic abuse investigations leading to a charge or summons has also decreased over the last year. The force needs to understand why there has been a decline in such an important area of policing. Until the force has that understanding it will not be in a position to take steps to improve the position, and to serve victims of domestic abuse better.
Areas for improvement
- The force should continue to develop its understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability within its local area through the use of partners’ data.
- The force must identify why arrest and charge rates in domestic abuse rates have declined and take action to improve both.
- The force must make certain that frontline staff are suitably skilled for, and then do make, accurate assessments of risk and that any re-assessments are made solely in the best interests of the victim.
- The force should review the referral process to multi-agency risk assessment conferences to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are not being placed at risk as a result.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Leicestershire Police is good at tackling serious and organised crime, with effective processes in place to identify and then investigate organised crime groups (OCGs). The force is working well with partner organisations and increasingly drawing information from them to understand more fully the effects of serious and organised crime across all its communities. Senior officers lead this partnership approach, which we saw throughout the force in many examples of joint working with other police and partner agencies.
We found that among the workforce, awareness of serious and organised crime is varied. The force should consider raising awareness of the signs of serious and organised crime among all frontline staff as part of their main activities.
The force is good at reacting to information that indicates a new organised crime group (OCG) has formed. It works well with East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) to analyse and understand how a new OCG is structured, who is involved and the nature of risk it presents to the public. The process it uses to achieve this is in line with national guidance. We found the force prioritises its use of resources to tackle serious and organised crime based on assessments of threat, harm, risk and vulnerability.
All investigations are under the control of lead responsible officers, who manage all aspects of investigations. They have all received the necessary training for that specialist role and have the benefit of working alongside experts from EMSOU and the National Crime Agency.
We found that the investigation plans for tackling organised crime groups followed the 4Ps structure of pursue, prevent, protect, and prepare. This approach has seen the force work with members of the local community to prevent serious and organised crime re-emerging after enforcement activity has taken place. The force supports several initiatives to divert young people from becoming involved in or returning to serious and organised crime. It has also widened the integrated offender management programme to now include offenders from OCGs, providing better long-term support and increasing the likelihood of them ceasing their criminal behaviour.
Areas for improvement
- The force should raise the awareness of OCGs among neighbourhood teams to ensure that they can reliably identify these groups, collect intelligence and disrupt their activity.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Leicestershire Police has good plans to mobilise in response to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR). The force regularly tests these plans and makes amendments following the lessons learned from such tests.
The force is part of a collaboration called the East Midlands operational support services, which has adequately assessed the threat of an attack requiring an armed response. Plans are in place to increase firearms capability by March 2017. Progress is being made with an interim plan and the recruitment of officers to achieve the budgeted number of firearms officers
The force undertakes regular exercises to test and evaluate plans to meet threats associated with the SPR through both live-play and desktop events in conjunction with ‘blue light’ emergency services and other partner agencies including the military.