Northamptonshire PEEL 2017
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement at keeping people safe and reducing crime. The force has made considerable efforts to respond to previous HMICFRS recommendations and has improved in some areas, but some of the changes have yet to result in tangible improvements in the service to the public. Now the building blocks for more effective policing have been put in place, the force recognises the need to sustain its efforts in order to further improve the services it provides.
Many of the problems identified in this year’s inspection stem from the configuration of the workforce, which is unable to meet the demand it faces. This has resulted in excessive workloads for officers and staff, inhibiting their ability to provide the public with a consistently good service. Supervisors are not given the right information to allow them to manage their areas of responsibility effectively, and structures vital for holding people to account are missing.
The force’s change programme, known as the service delivery model (SDM), aims to resolve many of these problems. This new model is expected to align resources to meet demand better, allowing officers and staff to concentrate more on dealing with the priorities of the force and its communities.
Northamptonshire Police has made some improvements to the way it prevents crime and tackles anti-social behaviour. Neighbourhood teams are no longer redeployed routinely to support response colleagues; this has increased their ability to carry out preventative work, such as problem solving. However, the force could still improve the way it works with local partner organisations to deal with the causes of crime and anti-social behaviour; it could also improve the way it evaluates the success of its activities, to learn from what works and share good practice.
The quality of the force’s investigations remains inconsistent. It does not always allocate them to appropriately trained staff or supervise them fully. As a result, victims of crime sometimes receive a poor service. However, the force is improving its understanding of those who are most vulnerable, and it now identifies repeat and vulnerable callers swiftly. The force needs to improve its management of registered sex offenders, ensuring it completes visits with appropriate timescales to protect the public.
The force still needs to improve its approach to tackling serious and organised crime. Its understanding of the threats and risks that serious and organised crime pose is limited, and it is failing to identify or properly assess organised crime groups. The way it prioritises its activity in this area is weak, and it operates almost entirely reactively. We were pleased to find that it is undertaking some operational activity with partner agencies to tackle modern slavery. However, we found little evidence of partnership or preventative work aimed at deterring people from becoming organised criminals or monitoring existing offenders.
The force has adequate arrangements in place to test its preparedness for meeting its national responsibilities under the Strategic Policing Requirement.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour (ASB) and keeping people safe.
Excessive workloads restrict the force’s ability to maintain or improve services to the public. Its operating model does not allow it to provide effective crime prevention services. It is introducing a new operating model, but is yet to achieve real change.
The force also has:
- missed opportunities to prevent crime due to not enough involvement from partner organisations;
- a very high rate of ASB incidents but lower use of ASB powers since our 2016 inspection; and
- improved its problem solving since 2016, but it may still be missing opportunities to tackle the underlying causes of crime and ASB problems because of failures in its systems.
However, the force does use a good range of methods to engage with the public.
The force should improve its understanding of crime and ASB by improving its analysis of information and intelligence. This would allow it to focus activity effectively.
The force should also evaluate and share best practice routinely, both internally and with partner organisations.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve its ability to analyse information and intelligence, to provide a better understanding of crime and anti-social behaviour in Northamptonshire and enable it to focus activity effectively.
- The force should adopt a more collaborative problem-solving approach, to enable it to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour effectively.
- The force should evaluate and share effective practice routinely, both internally and with partner organisations, to improve its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour continually.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement at investigating crime and reducing re-offending.
The force does not consistently assess incidents correctly. It is introducing a dedicated specialist team to investigate fraud cases, but still conducts investigations of an inconsistent quality. The force should ensure it allocates investigations to appropriately trained officers and staff. The force:
- has a backlog of digital devices awaiting examination in its high-tech crime unit, delaying investigations;
- has an inconsistent approach to victim care;
- needs to improve its approach to and supervision of dealing with wanted people and improve the management of outstanding named suspects; and
- is working effectively to develop its integrated offender management scheme.
The force has a severe shortage of investigators. This hampers the quality and timeliness of investigations as well as putting officers under excessive pressure. The force is currently increasing the number of trained investigators.
The force has a low rate of cases which result in a charge or summons, and this proportion has reduced since our 2016 inspection. Some perpetrators may not be being brought to justice and fewer victims may have the outcomes they should have been able to expect.
The force’s lack of a policy for dealing with named suspects, and high workloads of officers, mean that it does not actively pursue potentially high-risk individuals. The force has made little progress in this area since our 2016 inspection, but plans to address this by implementing an improved model of service provision.
However, we were pleased to find that the force has improved how it makes best use of forensic evidence, and that it now has a dedicated ‘forensic hit manager’ who links its analysis of forensic evidence to known offenders in a timely manner.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all crimes are allocated promptly to investigators with the appropriate skills, accreditation and support to investigate them to a good standard, in a timely manner.
- The force should ensure regular and active supervision of investigations to improve their quality and progress.
- The force should increase the number of qualified detectives to improve the quality of its investigations and ensure that workloads are manageable.
- 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.
- The force should ensure the swift location and arrest of those who are circulated as wanted on the Police National Computer, of those who fail to appear on police bail, of named and outstanding suspects and of suspects identified through forensic evidence.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement at protecting vulnerable people and supporting victims.
The force has made plans to address the shortage of response officers in order to improve its support for victims and vulnerable people. However, some vulnerable people do not receive the service they need, and may be put in danger.
It is establishing a domestic abuse prevention and interventions team to work on high-risk cases of domestic abuse.
The force understands its role in responding to vulnerable people with mental health problems but is not working sufficiently well with partner organisations to tackle incidents that involve mental health.
Positively, the force:
- has a good understanding of vulnerability and identifies it effectively;
- is effective at providing immediate safeguarding, when appropriate; and
- assesses the risks to callers with mental health problems effectively and has mental health triage nurses in the control room.
- records risk assessments of vulnerability inconsistently;
- has a declining domestic abuse arrest and charge/summons rate and needs to take appropriate action to address this;
- has officers and staff who spend a lot of time with people in mental health crisis; and
- needs to ensure that the risks posed by registered sex offenders are managed effectively.
Areas for improvement
- The force should take steps immediately to ensure that all incidents are thoroughly assessed to identify risk and harm at initial contact. It should use this assessment – not the availability of response officers – to determine an appropriate response, to ensure victims are kept safe.
- The force should improve the quality of investigations involving vulnerable people, ensuring that the workloads of specialist investigators are manageable at all times and that such investigations are subject to regular and active supervision.
- The force should improve its understanding of the reasons for the declining domestic abuse arrest and charge/summons rate and take appropriate action to address it.
- The force should ensure that it manages the risks posed by registered sex offenders effectively.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement at tackling serious and organised crime (SOC).
The force has a partial understanding of the threats and risks posed by SOC, but does not consistently identify and assess all organised crime groups (OCGs). It has limited initiatives in place to identify those at risk of being drawn into SOC or deter them from offending.
Positively, the force:
- has ensured that information on OCGs is now available to neighbourhood policing teams, which represents progress since our 2016 inspection;
- has successfully taken action against individuals suspected of involvement in modern slavery; and
- is developing its long-term approach to preventing people from becoming involved in SOC.
However, the force needs to:
- improve its approach to managing and prioritising activity aimed at disrupting and investigating SOC;
- exploit partner agency information to help its understanding of the wider threats from SOC;
- improve its arrangements for managing serious and organised criminals to prevent them from re-offending; and
- draw on regional support more routinely.
Cause of concern
The force needs to strengthen its response to serious and organised crime in order to provide the public with the best possible protection from harm.
The force should immediately take steps to:
- act on the information it currently holds to understand and prioritise the threats that organised criminals in Northamptonshire pose;
- define an intelligence requirement for serious and organised crime and communicate this to officers and staff so they can enhance the force’s understanding of current threats;
- 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;
- begin to measure its activity on serious and organised crime across the four Ps, and ensure that it learns from experience to maximise the disruptive effect of this activity;
- identify those at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime, and ensure that preventative initiatives are put in place with partner organisations to deter them from offending; 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 ancillary orders, partner agency powers and other tools to deter organised criminals from continuing to offend.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
National threats often require forces to work together, across force boundaries. These threats include terrorism, large-scale disorder and civil emergencies. We examined the capabilities in place to respond to these threats, in particular a firearms attack.
Most positively, the force:
- works with other forces to ensure enough trained staff and officers are available to respond to national threats;
- tests its skills in training exercises;
- has developed a good understanding of the threat to the public from an armed attack; and
- has increased its armed policing capacity in line with national commitments.