Thames Valley PEEL 2017
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 findings this year are consistent with those from 2016 and the force’s overall progress is positive despite some deterioration in the quality of its investigations.
The force works well to prevent crime, tackle anti-social behaviour and keep people safe. Neighbourhood policing teams work with local communities and identify what matters most to them. The force works proactively with other organisations such as local councils, using joint problem-solving techniques and evidence-based practice to address the underlying causes of crime. It could take further steps to make the whole force aware about what works well.
The force has improved retrieval of evidence from digital devices such as mobile phones and laptops. It generally provides a good service to victims of fraud and cyber-crime. However, the way that it investigates crime requires improvement: it investigates serious crimes well, but in other cases the quality of investigation, supervision and victim updates varies. Response officers also need to ensure that their initial investigations are complete.
The force is committed to protecting the public from dangerous offenders and quickly arresting suspects and those who are unlawfully at large. It is developing a new IT tool that will support this. The way the force protects vulnerable people from harm and supports victims is good. Officers and staff understand how to recognise and support vulnerable people when they contact the police, and the force has increased resilience in teams responsible for investigating complex cases involving vulnerable victims. It also provides appropriate support to people with mental health conditions. The force generally works well with partner organisations such as local councils and charities to safeguard vulnerable victims, although we found some inconsistencies in risk-assessments for children in domestic abuse incidents and delays in some referrals to other organisations responsible for safeguarding victims.
Thames Valley Police has effective specialist capabilities and is generally well prepared to deal with the threats identified in The Strategic Policing Requirement, such as terrorism and civil emergencies.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Thames Valley Police is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour, which is consistent with our findings in 2016.
The force prioritises crime prevention, emphasising neighbourhood policing. These teams are assigned to specific areas and now spend a greater proportion of their time working in them. They have:
- the skills needed to prevent crime effectively; and
- a good awareness of vulnerable victims and of people involved in serious and organised crime in their areas.
Overall, Thames Valley Police has an adequate understanding of the threats facing its local communities and it responds well.
Joint work with partner agencies is helping to address the causes of problems such as begging and illegal drug supply.
The force is good at analysing its own and partner data to identify areas with high levels of crime and target preventative activity. Local briefing systems provide a good understanding of those who cause most harm to communities.The force uses crime prevention approaches that research has found to be effective and good value for money. It now records cases more systematically, and its case management system contains problem-solving plans. However, it is not easy to share best practice across the force on this system.
Areas for improvement
- The force should evaluate and share effective practice routinely, both internally and with partners, continually to improve its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Thames Valley Police requires improvement at investigating crime and reducing re-offending. The force prioritises attendance at incidents appropriately and promptly. However, officers do not always complete all initial enquiries at the crime scene, and do not use body-worn video cameras consistently.
The force achieves a high proportion of good investigative outcomes, especially for more serious crimes. However, its investigations of offences such as assault and harassment vary in quality.
The force has recruited 89 police staff investigators to ease the strain on capacity and workloads caused by a shortage of investigators.
We found many examples of good practice in the force, which:
- deals well with the initial investigation of fraud and provides victims with a good service;
- makes good use of offender management arrangements to reduce offending;
- works well with partner organisations to reduce offending;
- has good arrangements to manage the risk posed by dangerous and sex offenders; and
- is increasing the number of officers dedicated to protecting the public from registered sex offenders.
The force makes determined efforts to arrest suspects quickly, especially those who present the highest risk to victims. However, local management awareness of activity to apprehend offenders wanted for lower-level offences is inconsistent. Also, the force makes fewer referrals to the Immigration Enforcement Service about arrested foreign nationals, which risks missing vital information about a person’s immigration status.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all evidence, including body-worn video camera footage, is secured at the first opportunity to maximise the likelihood of investigations being concluded successfully.
- The force should ensure that it is fully compliant with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.
- The force should ensure that there is regular and active supervision of investigations to improve quality and progress.
- The force should take steps to improve the provision of management information to local police area commanders about the numbers of people who are wanted for arrest and the risk that they pose, to ensure that they are effectively managed.
- The force should ensure that checks are routinely conducted to verify the identity, nationality and overseas convictions of arrested foreign nationals.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Thames Valley Police is good at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims. Officers and staff:
- are trained to recognise vulnerability and understand all forms of domestic abuse;
- use risk-assessment tools to establish victims’ level of risk; and
- provide necessary information for specialist officers and partner agencies.
The force investigates crimes involving vulnerable people to a good standard:
- crimes are allocated to public protection specialist officers with appropriate training and supervision;
- supervisors hold investigators to account for the quality of their work, although the recording of this supervision is variable;
- investigations are well planned and progress in a timely way, and victims are provided with updates; and
- the force reviews investigative outcomes to improve its approach.
Daily management meetings focus on areas of vulnerability such as domestic abuse and hidden crimes such as human trafficking.
Although most domestic abuse risk assessments were completed well, others were completed poorly with inconsistent supervision. Officers need to be more consistent in speaking with children involved in, or present at, domestic abuse incidents.
The force effectively protects victims of domestic abuse and is improving officers’ awareness of relevant legal provisions. It pursues prosecutions where appropriate, even when the victim does not support police action.
The force responds well to people with mental health problems. Frontline officers and staff have:
- clear guidance on responding to people with mental health problems; and
- a generally good awareness of mental health problems and understanding of the importance of taking immediate action.
Mental health triage cars across the force are staffed by an officer and a mental health professional, with good links with other health professionals for immediate advice.
The force works well with partner agencies to provide tailored, continuing specialist safeguarding for vulnerable people.
The force uses multi-agency safeguarding hubs (MASH) to exchange information about children with external organisations and agencies. It has plans to address the backlog of standard and medium-risk referrals awaiting a secondary assessment. Multi-agency risk assessment conferences that support victims of domestic abuse are effective.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that frontline officers become more proficient in completing DASH risk-assessments at initial response and there is sufficient supervisory oversight to ensure opportunities to safeguard vulnerable victims are not missed, and staff in the MASH should validate the risk and disseminate information to partner agencies effectively.
- The force should ensure that officers and staff understand how children can be affected by domestic abuse and that the behaviour and demeanour of any children, and what they say, are routinely recorded.
- The force should improve the way it works to share information and safeguard vulnerable victims, specifically in relation to addressing the backlog in cases that require further assessment and referral to other organisations via the MASH.
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. 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 constructively with other organisations to build skills and competence in this area;
- tests its skills in training exercises; and
- has developed a good understanding of the threat to the public from an armed attack.