South Yorkshire PEEL 2017
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
South Yorkshire Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Since HMICFRS’ 2016 effectiveness report, the force has made progress in several areas. HMICFRS is pleased to see the positive effect recent improvements have had across the force, particularly in neighbourhood policing and investigations. Further action is needed to ensure the force is providing all vulnerable people with an effective service.
South Yorkshire Police is effective in its approach to reducing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. The force has invested further in its neighbourhood policing and safer neighbourhood services, working jointly with partner organisations (such as local authorities, or health and education services). It is good at tackling crime and anti-social behaviour through joint problem solving and the use of tactics and interventions. The force evaluates most local problem-solving activity but it does not yet have a full understanding of the overall effect of its crime-prevention activity across the force area.
South Yorkshire Police is generally good at investigating crimes. The force effectively investigates some crimes over the telephone, through its new crime support hub and its dedicated investigation teams. However, we found that some initial evidence gathering is adversely affected when officers are not able to respond promptly enough. The force achieves good investigative outcomes (such as charge or no further action) and appropriate arrangements are in place to prevent re-offending, although it could do more to understand how effective these are.
The force must improve its ability to protect people who are vulnerable through their age, disability, or because they have been subjected to repeated offences, or are at high risk of abuse, for example. The force responds well to immediate calls for service from those people who are vulnerable, but we are concerned that, due to increased demand, it cannot respond to all priority calls in a timely way. This means that some vulnerable victims may not receive a sufficiently rapid response to keep them safe. The force is generally good at investigating crimes involving vulnerable people, but we found that the quality of some investigations suffered as a result of a delayed response by officers, and subsequent workload pressures within specialist investigations. The force protects and supports vulnerable people well through arrangements it has in place with partner organisations, and manages the risk posed by dangerous and sexual offenders.
South Yorkshire Police has the necessary arrangements in place to fulfil its national responsibilities, and to respond to an attack requiring an armed response. It is taking steps to increase the number of officers it needs who are trained to respond to public order incidents.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
South Yorkshire Police’s clear vision for crime prevention is part of its approach to neighbourhood policing, which is focused on problem-solving, crime prevention and early partnership-based interventions. The chief officer team consulted personally with local communities to take account of their needs when determining the force’s neighbourhood policing model and priorities. As a result, the force has reinstated 387 dedicated neighbourhood policing posts.
Most officers and PCSOs have the necessary basic problem-solving skills. The force provides very structured guidance that helps them to prevent crime and solve problems more effectively.
The force works well with partners through its safer neighbourhood services approach. This diverts people away from crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB), by working with other local organisations (including charities) to support areas, individuals and families with greatest need.
The force’s neighbourhood policing teams and safer neighbourhood services are good at tackling crime and ASB through joint problem-solving and a range of tactics and interventions.
The force evaluates most local problem-solving activity but it does not yet understand fully the overall effect of its crime-prevention activity. The force has improved how it evaluates and shares good practice, by setting up a crime prevention and reduction group, an ASB conference for officers and partner organisations, and an online portal that provides the workforce with evidence-based good practice.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
South Yorkshire Police requires improvement in how it investigates crime and reduces re-offending.
South Yorkshire Police is generally good at investigating crimes when officers are able to attend calls for service promptly. Officers usually take appropriate steps to identify and secure evidence during the ‘golden hour’ enquiries immediately after an incident, but we found that some investigations are hampered by slow attendance. As a result, the force has put in place measures to better manage its investigative demand.
Where the force investigates crimes over the telephone, it does this well. This is sometimes an appropriate and more efficient way of resolving less serious crimes. This is starting to reduce the demand on response officers attending all incidents to complete an investigation, particularly for lower-level crimes with no lines of enquiry.
We found that investigations are generally good. Most cases we examined:
- contained clear investigation plans;
- had been regularly reviewed; and
- all lines of enquiry had been pursued.
However, in a few of the less complex cases, a detailed investigation plan was lacking, or supervisors had not recorded directions for investigators to follow.
The force provides most victims with a good service throughout investigations. Its contact with victims is generally good, and it records appropriate updates with the victim.
The force achieves good investigative outcomes and has appropriate arrangements to prevent re-offending, although it could do more to understand how effective these are.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all investigations are completed to a consistently good standard, and in a timely manner.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
South Yorkshire Police is effective at identifying vulnerable people from calls for service and takes account of risk when responding to them. The force responds well to immediate calls for service.
However, increased demand has affected response times for priority calls. This means that some vulnerable victims may not receive a quick enough response to keep them safe.
In our 2016 inspection, we were concerned that the force was failing to safeguard vulnerable victims fully, particularly victims of domestic abuse. Officers were routinely failing to complete safeguarding referrals to sufficient quality and the workload of specialist investigators was high.
We are pleased that the force has since made progress and that its completion of safeguarding referrals is generally good enough.
Less positively, although the workload of some specialist investigations units has improved, the overall workload of some specialist units remains high, and several specialist investigators still require training.
The force works well with partner organisations to provide longer-term safeguarding for vulnerable victims. It manages the highest-risk domestic abuse cases effectively. It refers all high-risk cases to a multi-agency risk assessment conference to allow for information to be exchanged between police and other specialists.
The force manages the risk posed by dangerous and sexual offenders well. It works well with partner organisations to support vulnerable people and has effective arrangements in place.
Cause of concern
South Yorkshire Police’s initial response to vulnerable victims is a cause of concern. The force does not respond to all incidents within the required timescale, and although the force has an escalation policy for incidents it is unable to deploy to, there is no guidance or timescale as to when this escalation should take place and no re-assessment of risk to the victim. This means that some vulnerable victims may not receive a sufficiently rapid response to keep them safe.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve the quality of its investigation of cases involving vulnerable victims, particularly domestic abuse cases, by ensuring that officers and staff with the appropriate professional skills and experience investigate cases, and complex cases in particular, that the workloads of specialist investigators are manageable, and that these investigations are supervised effectively and recorded appropriately on force systems.
- The force should continue to enhance its strategic understanding of the nature and scale of domestic abuse vulnerability within its local area through the use of partner data.
- The force should improve its understanding of the reasons for the declining domestic abuse arrest and charge/summons rates, and take appropriate action to address this.
- The force should review its use of Claire’s Law ‘right to know’ to ensure that it is making the best use of these powers to safeguard victims of domestic abuse.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
This question was not inspected in 2017. The grade and findings from last year’s inspection still stand
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
National threats often require forces to work together, across force boundaries. South Yorkshire Police has the necessary arrangements in place to fulfil its national responsibilities. These threats include terrorism, large-scale disorder and civil emergencies.
It regularly assesses its capability and is taking steps to increase the number of officers who are trained to respond to public order incidents. We also 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 there are sufficient staff and officers with specialist skills to respond to national threats;
- tests its skills in training exercises; and
- carefully analyses training and testing exercises to improve its response to national threats.
However, the force needs to:
- set out its understanding of the criminal use of firearms in a threat assessment that is specific to the South Yorkshire area.