Thames Valley PEEL 2016
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Thames Valley Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime, our overall judgement is the same as last year when we judged the force to be good. It should be commended for the actions it has taken to address areas for improvement identified by HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness inspection.
The force is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and it generally investigates crime well. It is good at protecting vulnerable people and provides the right support to them in conjunction with partner organisations. It tackles serious and organised crime effectively and is well prepared to respond to national threats.
Thames Valley Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. It has addressed many of the previous areas for improvement which HMIC identified during previous inspections.
Levels of crime and anti-social behaviour in the Thames Valley Police area remain low. The force understands the problems which affect its communities and it works well to keep people safe. It is generally good at investigating crime and at considering the needs of the victim. It works well with other public services to reduce offending and protect the public from dangerous offenders, but it could do more to address the other types of harm that offenders can cause, including domestic abuse.
The force is good at protecting vulnerable people. Officers and staff are trained to recognise when a person is vulnerable and there are good systems in place to assess and address risks to vulnerable people. The force has progressed its proud history of working with partner organisations to establish multi-agency safeguarding hubs which specifically address the needs of vulnerable victims.
The force is generally effective at tackling serious and organised crime. Organised crime groups are mapped, scored and managed in line with national guidance. The force has completed a large amount of work where it has used law enforcement powers to disrupt the activities of criminal gangs. It is good to see how the force includes partner organisations in some of these disruption tactics, but this is an area that would benefit from more consistent partnership involvement and, in particular, better sharing of information. In other forces, organised crime partnership boards have been used effectively to include partner organisations in the fight against organised crime. Thames Valley Police should consider establishing a partnership board structure to address this.
The force has good arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing requirements. A chief officer is responsible for each of the threats specified within the Strategic Policing Requirement, and for testing and checking that the arrangements are in place. The force is well prepared to respond to an attack which might require an armed response. It carried out a thorough assessment of its requirements following the attacks in Paris. The force’s assessment is that its capabilities need to be increased in this area, and interim arrangements are now in place while it develops a long-term solution.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
The force is good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and at keeping people safe. It has low crime levels and its recorded rate of anti-social behaviour is half the England and Wales rate per 1,000 population. It has used the College of Policing guidance and academic research to inform its neighbourhood policing review and principles of community engagement.
We found good examples where the force works innovatively to learn about problems which affect the public, including with disadvantaged groups. As a result there are good processes in place for the public to influence policing priorities and the force has a good understanding of its communities and the problems which are of concern to them. However, it needs to make sure that this knowledge is retained in a way that it is accessible to the entire workforce.
The force uses problem-solving techniques well and has good arrangements with partner organisations to share information and to work together to solve difficult problems. Neighbourhood staff have a good level of knowledge of problem-solving techniques, although levels of this activity are not consistent throughout the force.
HMIC also found evidence that the force is committed to researching which policing tactics work best in any given circumstances. Frequent reference is made to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the College of Policing and academic bodies to ensure that the tactics which are used are, as a matter of routine, the best tactics for the job.
Areas for improvement
- The force should adopt a structured and consistent approach to problem-solving to enable it to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour more effectively.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Thames Valley Police’s initial investigative response to reports of crime is generally good. It has effective processes in place to make sure that reports of crime are recorded correctly and allocated to suitably skilled investigators.
Most allegations of crime are allocated for investigation in a timely fashion but the workload of the OBRT at the time of the inspection was too high. This has led to unacceptable delays, and has undermined the service provided to victims. The force usually meets its obligations to victims under national codes of practice but this needs to become more consistent.
Integrated Offender Management (IOM) arrangements generally address the needs of persistent offenders well. However the force should do more with partner organisations to broaden the range of offenders included in programmes. IOM should be extended to include serial domestic abuse and anti-social behaviour perpetrators in recognition of the harm that they can cause.
The force manages dangerous and sexual offenders through nationally recognised public protection arrangements. It makes good use of court orders to prevent offenders from committing more crimes. Some staff expressed concerns to us about their workloads, and the force is reviewing its current arrangements to boost its capacity in this crucial area.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that the capacity in the office-based research team is adequate, so that criminal investigations can be undertaken in an effective and timely manner.
- The force should review its capacity to retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices to ensure that investigations are not delayed.
- The force should ensure that it is fully compliant with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.
- The force should consider widening its approach to integrated offender management to include a broader range of offenders. There should be clear measures of success which enable the force to evaluate how effectively it is protecting the public from prolific and harmful offenders.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Thames Valley Police has a good understanding of vulnerability and works effectively with partner organisations to share information, to support vulnerable people and to find ways of ensuring positive results for victims. It has robust internal processes to identify gaps in knowledge, and it drives through improvements in the ways in which it identifies and protects vulnerable people.
Police officers and staff have been trained to recognise signs which indicate that a person might be vulnerable and the force has excellent processes in place to safeguard victims. Risk assessments are routinely completed for victims of anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse and so-called honour-based violence. This enables support programmes for victims to be put in place by multi agency safeguarding hubs.
There are robust policies in place to support children who go missing and to assess whether they are likely to be victimised by sexual predators.
The force has specialist investigative teams to manage offences associated with vulnerable victims. It has taken steps to ensure that the workloads of child abuse and domestic abuse investigators are manageable. These have largely had a good effect, but some domestic abuse investigators still express concern about their individual caseloads. We note the steps that the force is taking to increase staffing in this area, which is encouraging, but the force should continue to monitor workloads to make sure that it has sufficient resource in place to manage offences associated with vulnerable victims.
Thames Valley Police has worked hard to develop multi-agency safeguarding hubs which work consistently well across several local authority jurisdictions. Frontline officers are making good use of referral processes to ensure that the hubs consider the individual needs of victims and put measures in place to support them.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Thames Valley Police is generally effective at tackling organised crime. It identifies, scores and reviews organised crime groups (OCGs) in accordance with national guidance. Action against OCGs is a strategic priority for the force and operational activity is in line with national best practice guidelines.
Partner organisations and neighbourhood officers are regularly involved in operations to disrupt OCG activity and the force makes good use of preventative legislation to curb the offending lifestyles of criminals. Publicity campaigns are used effectively to prevent people from becoming victims of this type of crime. Cyber attacks and other crime committed on the internet are good examples of this.
However the force needs to do more to embed a longer-term approach to dealing with organised crime. More involvement of executives in other public organisations and the business sector would be of benefit. The force is advised to establish a strategic partnership board to develop this.
Additionally the involvement of local policing area officers is too restricted. Although they are involved in activity to disrupt OCGs, few officers that we spoke to were aware of organised crime in their local area. In other forces, local officers play a more prominent role in preventing the proliferation of organised crime.
Areas for improvement
- The force should further develop its serious and organised crime local profiles in conjunction with partner organisations to enhance its understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime and inform joint work aimed at reducing this threat.
- The force should 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.
- The force should improve the awareness of organised crime groups 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?
The force has good arrangements in place to test its preparedness to deal with national threats, which include oversight from a chief officer. There are comprehensive testing and exercising arrangements in place which include the contributions of partner organisations. The force’s state of preparedness to address the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR) are reviewed by the Police and crime commissioner every four months. There are also continuity plans in place to help the force meet its national policing requirements in the event of a major disruption to services.
The force has assessed and responded to threats requiring an armed response. After the terrorist attacks in Paris, the force reviewed its firearms capabilities in the light of the new methods and weapons which the terrorists had used. The force has ensured its capabilities meets this type of extreme threat.
Closer joint working with Hampshire Constabulary has helped to boost the training capacity, and increasing numbers of officers are being trained to nationally accredited armed response vehicle standards. The force has developed a number of assumptions of likely terrorist scenarios and has tested its ability to respond in simulated training exercises.