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Northamptonshire PEEL 2018

Effectiveness

How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?

Last updated 27/09/2019
Requires improvement

Northamptonshire Police is improving its approach to crime prevention. It needs to better analyse the information it has so it can allocate resources more effectively. It should also build on working more closely with communities to make it more effective in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour.

The force has improved its approach to problem solving since our last inspection. However, there is still more work to do in this area. Better and more consistent processes would help the force prevent more crime.

Northamptonshire Police doesn’t have the resources to investigate crime effectively enough. This has resulted in a backlog of crimes being allocated to investigators. There are plans for improvements, but the force has been slow to put these in place.

The force doesn’t support victims as well as it should. This is down to a lack of resources in some cases, and policies and standards not always being in place in other cases. The force doesn’t manage offenders effectively, which can sometimes present a risk to the public.

Northamptonshire Police needs to better understand the nature and scale of vulnerability. Since our last inspection, the force has got better at identifying vulnerability. However, it doesn’t consistently support all vulnerable victims.

Tackling serious and organised crime (SOC) is one of the force’s six priorities. It has developed a better understanding since our last inspection and continues to make improvements.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The force should improve how it analyses information and intelligence. This will help it better understand crime and anti-social behaviour in Northamptonshire. It will then be able to target activity more effectively.
  • Local policing teams should communicate with communities regularly. The force should also problem solve with other organisations to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour.
  • The force should share what it does well internally and with external organisations it works with. This would help improve its approach to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.

Prioritising crime prevention

Northamptonshire Police understands the importance of crime prevention, and its neighbourhood policing has improved since our last inspection. The force now has local policing teams dedicated to working with neighbouring organisations. This helps prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, and solve problems in local communities.

While the number of officers and staff working in these teams has reduced, they are no longer redeployed elsewhere to carry out other work. This means they are now able to spend almost all their time on their main tasks. These are community engagement, problem solving and crime prevention.

Crime prevention is not a consistent part of the force’s task assignment processes. Senior staff overseeing of prevention activities is limited. This means the force may be missing chances to prevent crime. Most neighbourhood officers and staff have had some problem solving and crime prevention training. For some, however, this was over 18 months ago, and may need refreshing.

Neighbourhood policing teams have developed new plans to prevent crime. The main objectives include:

  • making the best use of information;
  • working with other organisations and problem solving;
  • research and development; and
  • improving neighbourhood policing.

This new approach invites the public to work with neighbourhood policing teams to identify and resolve local problems. The focus is on working with the public, rather than simply providing a service. During our fieldwork, the strategy had just been launched and the workforce was not yet achieving all the objectives.

The force plans to introduce a continuing professional development scheme for neighbourhood policing teams. This will help to build their skills and knowledge, making them more effective.

Protecting the public from crime

Northamptonshire Police has improved its understanding of the threats communities face. We were pleased to see evidence of up-to-date beat profiles. Neighbourhood teams can now access these from their mobile devices. The profiles include:

  • specific information and summaries about recently reported crimes;
  • details of known offenders; and
  • potentially vulnerable people.

The force analyses some of these threats. It now needs to do more to build a more detailed picture. A focus should be on threats that are often less visible, such as modern slavery.

The force is targeting activity to better understand hidden threats. For example, it takes part in meetings with various agencies to tackle cuckooing. This is when drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person to use it for drug dealing. The force now needs to work with agencies to better understand how to tackle other threats, such as cybercrimes. The force has plans to do this. It will then be able to give clearer guidance to neighbourhood teams.

Neighbourhood teams talk to the public and organisations informally to get a better understanding of threats faced by communities. This helps local supervisors understand problems affecting some communities. Yet it isn’t clear how this is used to provide a county-wide picture. Local engagement is inconsistent, which means that neighbourhood teams don’t fully understand their communities. This includes harder to reach groups and those less likely to contact the police. The teams use online surveys and carry out some local activities.

The force isn’t using social media effectively enough in its work with communities. It has a single Facebook page that provides information, but there is limited dialogue. This means that the force is missing opportunities to engage with harder to reach communities, which may reveal hidden harms.

Northamptonshire Police’s approach to problem solving has improved since our last inspection. However, it still isn’t up to the standard its communities should expect. Northamptonshire Police uses the OSARA model for problem solving (objective, scanning, analysis, review and assess). There were examples of plans in this area, with some involving other organisations and residents. These plans are reviewed and supervised on a local level, but they are not overseen by a senior officer or force-wide.

The force has recently introduced a ‘problem solvers group’, involving other organisations. Its aim is to analyse the effectiveness of tactical activity, and share lessons learned and what is being done well.

There isn’t enough capacity to analyse problem-solving approaches to tackling long-term crime problems, or to test the effectiveness of efforts to address them. When teams need extra specialist resources, they are not getting the support they need because the processes that are in place aren’t effective enough. As a result, the force is missing opportunities to prevent crime from occurring in the first place.

There is an inconsistent approach to involving other organisations in problem-solving activities. The police carry out activity in some communities, but not in all parts of the county. Some of these plans are shared via E-CINs, a web-based case-recording system. But most activity is only on the force’s crime and intelligence system (Niche RMS).

Most plans shared with other agencies are about specific individuals or known problem addresses. There is limited evidence of joint working to tackle long-standing crime or anti-social behaviour hot spots. In some parts of Northamptonshire, the force regularly shares information with other groups. Teams go to council and local parish meetings, and work with the community safety or stronger safer neighbourhood partnerships. However, the approach is inconsistent across the county.

We were pleased to see the Wellingborough neighbourhood team’s work with a local joint action group. However, the approach is inconsistent across the county because these aren’t established in all areas. This means that the force may be missing opportunities to tackle the underlying causes of crime problems. Sharing information and working with others could help the force improve its problem solving.

The workforce’s use of wider powers to tackle anti-social behaviour is inconsistent. Officers and staff displayed a reasonable knowledge of the powers available to them, but they don’t routinely make full use of them. As a result, the use of these powers has fallen.

Northamptonshire Police uses early intervention appropriately to reduce harm in communities. We visited the force’s early intervention pilot hub. It has long-term objectives to reduce harm in communities. The hub provides a comprehensive service to safeguard vulnerable children and families. It is a significant investment in police time. With support from other partners, we examined evidence of wide-ranging help being given to vulnerable children and their parents:

Case study

In one case we reviewed, children had been referred by staff at their primary school. This instigated a home visit by a police community support officer (PCSO) from the hub, who identified a wide range of issues that needed multi-agency attention.

The family’s housing was inadequate for their needs. The PCSO worked with a registered social landlord (RSL) to move the family from private rented accommodation to an RSL home.

The PCSO also organised for immediate help from a local food bank. The family then received an emergency food parcel delivery and weekly food supplies.

The mother and children were in fear of the father who had recently been released from prison for domestic abuse offences. The force worked with the relevant authorities to find a different school and GP surgery. This kept the chances of the children or mother seeing the father to a minimum.

The PCSO also worked with the troubled families officer from the Department for Work and Pensions. The officer made sure the mother was receiving appropriate benefits and was enrolled in jobseeker programmes.


We were also briefed on the new gang intervention programme – Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). Both the early intervention hub and CIRV schemes appear very promising and we look forward to the results.

Summary for question 1
2

How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?

Inadequate

Cause of concern

The force can’t manage current demand effectively. It doesn’t have enough capacity or capability to investigate crime as effectively as it should. This is affecting the service too often.

Northamptonshire Police is failing to respond appropriately to some vulnerable people. This means it is missing some opportunities to safeguard victims and secure evidence.

Recommendations

To address this cause of concern, we recommend that within 12 months the force should do the following:

  • To improve the effectiveness of its investigations, it should:
    • make sure senior officers clearly and effectively oversee crime investigations and standards;
    • make sure all crimes are allocated quickly to investigators with the appropriate skills, accreditation and support. They will then be able to investigate them to a good standard, on time;
    • make sure it is fully compliant with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime;
    • make sure it can retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices quickly enough to avoid delaying investigations;
    • make sure it uses bail and ‘released under investigation’ correctly to keep the public safe; and
    • make sure that people listed as ‘wanted’ on the Police National Computer are quickly located and arrested.
  • To improve its approach to protecting vulnerable people, it should:
    • improve call response and initial investigation for all vulnerable victims;
    • improve its response to missing and absent children by categorising information correctly, and regularly and actively supervise missing person investigations to properly safeguard victims; and
    • analyse information held on systems to better understand the nature and scale of vulnerability. It should then act on its findings relating to missing people, domestic abuse, human trafficking, modern slavery and child sexual exploitation.
  • To make sure it can meet demand, it should develop plans to address its current capacity, capability and efficiency problems. It should:
    • change its operating model to remove inefficient practices;
    • create a central record of the skills available within the existing workforce;
    • reorganise the workforce to make sure officers have the skills needed to meet demand; and
    • carry out a thorough assessment of current and future demand, covering all elements of policing.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.

Investigation quality

Northamptonshire Police doesn’t have enough capacity or capability to investigate crime as effectively as it should. This often affects the service that it offers. Too often, senior staff aren’t overseeing investigations. And there is a lack of effective scrutiny or audit systems in place to make sure that investigations are of a good standard and not delayed. The force has plans to improve investigative standards, but it has been slow to put these in place.

Investigations allocated to CID or specialist teams (such as the domestic abuse prevention and interventions team – DAPIT – and Operation Solar, which investigate some rapes) are generally well investigated. This isn’t the case for investigations of other crimes such as burglary, sexual assault, some violent crimes and thefts. As investigative demand exceeds capacity, we found large backlogs in crimes yet to be allocated to investigators. This is affecting the service the force offers to the public.

There are too many teams handling telephone investigations. At the time of our fieldwork, there were at least three units carrying out desktop investigations. This is inefficient and offers a poor service. The force aims to carry out desktop investigations for 43 percent of crimes. This is where a person’s needs are assessed over the phone. People are then offered appointments in cases where the risk assessment considers it appropriate. These are handled by the managed appointments unit (MAU).

The MAU doesn’t have enough supervisors, and some victims can often wait for appointments for between five and ten days. This means investigations go on for longer that they should, and lines of enquiry and opportunities to safeguard victims are being missed.

Call handling is generally effective. The operators show empathy and gather relevant information quickly. Staff use the THRIVE model (threat, harm, risk, vulnerability, engagement) to assess appropriate police response. On some occasions, this isn’t properly recorded on the force’s command and control system (STORM) or Niche RMS.

Police usually attend emergency graded calls within the target timescale. However, calls graded as ‘prompt’ are rarely attended within the force’s one-hour target arrival time. There is a lack of clarity about target times for attending ‘prompt’ graded calls. It would be helpful for attendance times to be included in the force’s call handling policy. In most incidents, appropriate resources are allocated. And ‘golden hour’ actions (the initial hour at the scene of an incident for collection of evidence) and handovers are good in most cases.

Northamptonshire Police is making reasonable efforts to increase its investigative capability. This includes trying to make the role more desirable by paying for study books and granting study leave. The force doesn’t have enough trained investigators. Currently, 81.7 percent of posts are filled. We found examples of crimes being allocated to staff who didn’t have enough training, or those with workloads that were already too high. Many officers and staff we spoke to were working on between 20 and 30 investigations. At the time of our inspection, there were over 300 cases awaiting allocation. Some of these were almost six months old.

Student officers start their policing career working on uniformed response policing teams. In Northamptonshire, student officers rotate into the force investigations team for several months during their first two years. We found examples of these students returning to the team at the end of this period with caseloads of up to 30 crimes.

The force can’t consistently and effectively investigate crime and support victims. Before our fieldwork, we examined 60 closed files and highlighted to the force several concerns. Twenty of these files were referred to the force for immediate attention and action. Reasons included unresolved lines of enquiry, a lack of supervision, or delays in investigations that may affect outcomes. Only 37 cases had been investigated effectively. During this file review, we found a burglary involving a vulnerable victim that had been allocated to a student special constable to investigate. During fieldwork, we found many more cases where lines of enquiry hadn’t been followed up. This included tracing and interviewing named suspects.

At the time of our inspection, investigators couldn’t quickly examine a mobile phone using a kiosk. A swift digital examination of a mobile phone while someone is in custody can open new lines of enquiry and influence charging decisions. There were also delays in carrying out CCTV enquiries, including seizure and examination. And we found examples of summary cases expiring because so much time had passed. Summary-only cases are normally tried at magistrates’ courts. In general, proceedings must be commenced within six months of the criminal act being complained of. Below are some examples of cases we found during our fieldwork.

Case study

We reviewed a case of racially aggravated threatening behaviour involving neighbours. The initial report was received in mid-May 2018, and it was graded for priority attendance within one hour. Yet police didn’t attend that day. This was despite the victim’s concerns about his family, given that the alleged perpetrator was a neighbour. An appointment was made, and full details taken eight days later. The case wasn’t allocated to an investigating officer for another five weeks (late June 2018).

There was no investigative action and the victim wasn’t updated for a further six weeks (mid-August 2018). This means it had taken almost three months from initial reporting to the investigation starting.

The suspect was booked in for a voluntary interview in November 2018, six months after the alleged incident, but refused to attend. A decision was made not to arrest the suspect. This was despite clear provisions stated in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 to “arrest a suspect to enable the prompt and effective investigation of the offence”.

In late November 2018, a supervisor carried out a serious crime review. This should have happened within two days of the offence being reported. A further seven-day review by a detective inspector was not done at all. The case was suitable for summons, but no action was taken. The case was classified as ‘no further action’ by the Crown Prosecution Service and the victim was updated in mid-December 2018.

Case study

We reviewed a common assault case reported in March 2018 between two people who didn’t know each other. Following a verbal argument, one male assaulted another male outside a supermarket. He then left in a vehicle. Police attended and collected the evidence within the ‘golden hour’.

Initial investigations identified the registered keeper of the vehicle (early April). The driver was then identified. The case was reallocated to a different investigating officer in late May 2018. They incorrectly assumed the CCTV didn’t show the assault, and that it wasn’t in a viewable format. The new investigator tried to get a duplicate copy of the CCTV. The officer who viewed it wasn’t asked to give a statement. During mid-June, the investigator made attempts to contact the suspect.

There was no activity in this case until a supervisory review in early October 2018, when the investigator was off sick. There was no other evidence of supervisory review.

By November 2018, the prosecution time limits had expired. The investigating officer then updated the victim by leaving a voicemail, telling them that the case was now closed. The suspect in this case was dealt with for different offences in April and October 2018. Both occurred before the date of this investigation expired.

Too often, the lack of effective supervision is a critical factor in the force failing to effectively investigate crimes. Fewer than half of the investigations we examined had been properly supervised. This included investigation plans, reviews, safeguarding plans and crime finalisation. Some hadn’t benefited from any meaningful investigative activity for many months.

Examples include a domestic burglary that was initially dealt with by response officers. There was no evidence of a supervisor overseeing it before it was handed to CID. There was also a theft case that hadn’t been progressed or reviewed by a supervisor in more than four months.

The delay in investing in ICT equipment to examine seized devices for evidence is causing significant backlogs. This is affecting the force’s performance and public satisfaction. There is a plan to reduce the backlog in the high-tech crime unit (HTCU), which the force has been trying to tackle for several years.

The wait time is currently 18 months and not expected to be in line with the national average (six months) for at least another year. Not having enough digital storage capacity is also a major reason for the backlog. The force has been slow to address this problem. The wait time for examining exhibits means that offenders aren’t quickly brought to justice. Staff in several units voiced their frustration about the wait time.

There are shortcomings in the standard of victim care and support. Victim personal statements are rarely obtained and there is poor compliance with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime. The way investigators record victim contact or care on Niche RMS is inconsistent. Sometimes these records are only found on the back of the witness statement.

There is a lack of understanding and compliance with the Victims’ Code. We reviewed a sexual assault case that after three months still hadn’t been allocated to an investigating officer. The victim had only received one update, four days after making the initial report.

In situations where victims didn’t support further police action, there was often no further investigation. This was despite there being clear lines of enquiry available.
At times, this led to the investigator not considering the wider risks posed by the suspect before closing the investigation. The force is developing new crime allocation and investigative standards policies. At the time of our inspection, it wasn’t clear when these would be put in place.

Catching criminals

Since 2015, our inspections have identified that the force needs to improve how it manages suspects. It has developed a new policy for dealing with ‘wanted’ suspects, although this hadn’t been fully put in place at the time of our fieldwork.

The force doesn’t actively manage the number of outstanding named suspects and there is little supervision in daily management meetings. In 2018, Northamptonshire Police had 1.33 wanted records per 1,000 population on the Police National Computer. This is similar to the England and Wales rate of 1.10. The force’s approach to managing foreign offenders is inconsistent.

ACRO manages the UK Central Authority for the Exchange of Criminal Records (UKCA-ECR), which exchanges conviction information with other EU member states. Within Northamptonshire Police, submissions have reduced. This means there are missed opportunities to manage offenders and protect the public.

There are limited governance arrangements to manage and prioritise policing activity and locate ‘wanted’ suspects. The force needs to make sure that there are clear measures in place to help managers understand organisational and operational risk, and allocate and co-ordinate resources.

There isn’t a good enough understanding of post- and pre-charge bail among the workforce. We reviewed several live and closed cases and found an over-reliance on releasing suspects under investigation (RUI) rather than using bail. This was due to a lack of knowledge.

We reviewed an indecent assault case on a 17-year-old victim. We identified that there was a linked crime involving a different victim, plus a previous historic allegation of abuse involving the suspect’s younger sister. Bail was granted with conditions, but no application was made to extend it beyond 28 days. This was because the suspect had complied with his bail conditions and lived a distance from the victims. This failed to consider the continued safeguarding and care of the victims. This was also evident in other cases we examined. A lack of supervisory intervention made these problems worse.

Rape investigators make regular use of voluntary attendance. This means they miss opportunities to grant bail conditions following arrest. Where bail conditions had been used, they were often replaced with RUI after 28 days if the suspect hadn’t contacted the victim. There was also child sexual exploitation (CSE) cases where the team hadn’t used bail conditions to manage those arrested for CSE offences or to support the victims. This means that victims may not be properly safeguarded and may be at risk of intimidation.

There is a lack of understanding about disclosure obligations. There hasn’t been any specific disclosure training for investigators, other than a generic e-learning module. Many trained investigators we spoke to had never drafted a disclosure schedule. Investigators rely heavily on caseworkers preparing disclosure schedules, and accredited investigators have limited disclosure knowledge. This is because the force gives this responsibility to a specialist criminal justice team.

Northamptonshire Police’s approach to managing forensic hits has deteriorated since our last inspection. In 2017, the force introduced a co-ordinator role to manage all cases where there was a forensic hit or link. Since July 2018, the post holder has been moved to other duties. During that time, there hasn’t been an audit of the progress of these forensic hits or the outcomes for the named suspects.

A recent investigation highlighted significant issues with how the force monitors forensic identifications. One example was when a suspect was not arrested for a sexual offence forensic hit. The same suspect went on to commit a second sexual offence. This led to an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation and internal misconduct proceedings.

There is a plan to use Niche RMS to help audit the process to prevent this happening again. At the time of our fieldwork, there were no mechanisms in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again. This means that opportunities to detect crimes and prevent further offending are being missed.

Summary for question 2
3

How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?

Requires improvement

Cause of concern

The force can’t manage current demand effectively. It doesn’t have enough capacity or capability to investigate crime as effectively as it should. This is affecting the service too often.

Northamptonshire Police is failing to respond appropriately to some vulnerable people. This means it is missing some opportunities to safeguard victims and secure evidence.

Recommendations

To address this cause of concern, we recommend that within 12 months the force should do the following:

  • To improve the effectiveness of its investigations, it should:
    • make sure senior officers clearly and effectively oversee crime investigations and standards;
    • make sure all crimes are allocated quickly to investigators with the appropriate skills, accreditation and support. They will then be able to investigate them to a good standard, on time;
    • make sure it is fully compliant with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime;
    • make sure it can retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices quickly enough to avoid delaying investigations;
    • make sure it uses bail and ‘released under investigation’ correctly to keep the public safe; and
    • make sure that people listed as ‘wanted’ on the Police National Computer are quickly located and arrested.
  • To improve its approach to protecting vulnerable people, it should:
    • improve call response and initial investigation for all vulnerable victims;
    • improve its response to missing and absent children by categorising information correctly, and regularly and actively supervise missing person investigations to properly safeguard victims; and
    • analyse information held on systems to better understand the nature and scale of vulnerability. It should then act on its findings relating to missing people, domestic abuse, human trafficking, modern slavery and child sexual exploitation.
  • To make sure it can meet demand, it should develop plans to address its current capacity, capability and efficiency problems. It should:
    • change its operating model to remove inefficient practices;
    • create a central record of the skills available within the existing workforce;
    • reorganise the workforce to make sure officers have the skills needed to meet demand; and
    • carry out a thorough assessment of current and future demand, covering all elements of policing.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.

Understanding and identifying vulnerability

Northamptonshire Police is committed to protecting vulnerable people. However, it doesn’t understand well enough the nature and scale of vulnerability. We were pleased to see that it has commissioned problem profiles on domestic abuse, missing people, CSE, human trafficking and modern slavery. However, it hasn’t acted on the findings to make sure that the workforce has a good understanding of the scale of vulnerability and can deal with the problem.

The force uses the College of Policing’s definition of vulnerability and the workforce has a basic understanding of the definition. Officers and staff submit many public protection notices (PPNs). These summarise the vulnerabilities of victims and witnesses, and neighbourhood teams have knowledge of some vulnerable victims in their area.

Officers and staff appear to recognise their role in recording when they encounter vulnerable people. However, we found very few examples of them proactively looking to identify vulnerable people or get a better understanding of vulnerability. For example, not all neighbourhood officers are aware of the children’s care homes in their area. This means that the force may be missing opportunities to protect vulnerable children.

Within the control room, identifying vulnerability has improved since our last inspection. Vulnerability and repeat flags on STORM help prioritise vulnerability and repeat victims at first contact. At the time of our inspection, a team in the force control room was piloting a scheme, led by the College of Policing. It included carrying out desk-based investigations for some low-level domestic abuse incidents. We look forward to seeing the results of the pilot.

The force works with a range of external agencies to identify and safeguard potentially vulnerable people. We were briefed about some county lines operations that social workers have attended with police who have warrants. This helps to identify people who may be being exploited by criminal groups and need safeguarding.

The force is leading an early intervention pilot initiative with the local authority and NHS. It covers the north-east part of Northampton and focuses on children of primary school age. It aims to support those who have had adverse childhood experiences.

The hub receives referrals from schools, partner agencies and the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) via PPNs. These referrals are assessed and can instigate support services intervening. There has been an interim evaluation by the University of Northamptonshire, and a final evaluation was under way when we inspected. Depending on the findings, the approach will be rolled out across the rest of the force area, targeting high-risk schools.

Vulnerability issues are not effectively identified within the unallocated crime queues (crimes that have been reported and recorded but not yet allocated to an investigator). We found cases at the Criminal Justice Centre in Northampton where vulnerable people hadn’t been contacted and didn’t know when they would be. This means that victims may not be properly safeguarded.

Responding to incidents

Northamptonshire Police attends most emergency calls on time. And it consistently attends emergency calls (grade 1 – immediate) involving vulnerable victims within the target response time of 15 minutes in urban areas and 20 minutes in rural locations. However, it doesn’t consistently attend prompt calls (grade 2) within the target time of one hour. This means that some vulnerable people don’t get the service they need and may be put in danger.

The force needs to improve how it responds to domestic abuse incidents and safeguarding victims. Response officers carry out immediate safeguarding of high-risk domestic abuse victims. But the approach to long-term safeguarding is inconsistent, particularly around standard- and medium-risk incidents, and other non-domestic vulnerability cases.

The force made 3,409 domestic abuse arrests in the 12 months to September 2018. This means its arrest rate is 40 percent, which is above the national average of 32 percent. Of cases where the force uses arrest or voluntary attendance, it will use voluntary attendance 3.24 percent of the time. This is below the England and Wales rate of 9.25 percent.

A detailed domestic abuse problem profile was published in 2018. It isn’t clear what changes the force has made because of it. The profile sets out an increase in response times for grade 2 domestic abuse incidents. These account for 40.3 percent of all domestic abuse incidents. The analysis reveals that the average time from the first call to first dispatch of a resource is over three hours. The average time between dispatching the resource and its arrival is 61 minutes. This means that police attendance is sometimes four hours after the initial call. This is far slower than the force’s own target of one hour. The profile also identifies that the longer it took officers to arrive at a scene of a domestic incident, the less likely an arrest would be.

This highlights the possible negative effect on outcomes, with more likelihood of outcome 16 (evidential difficulties and victim declines to prosecute) when an arrest hasn’t occurred. Outcome 16 was recorded in 52 percent of domestic abuse cases in Northamptonshire, compared with 33 percent nationally. The force has one of the lowest charge rates for domestic abuse incidents. It is 16.3 percent compared with the national average of 22 percent. This means that victims of domestic abuse may not be receiving an effective service. The force should make sure that it uses the findings from analytical reports to improve the service it provides.

Investigative and safeguarding responses to most domestic abuse incidents are inconsistent. Response officers or the force investigations team deal with most standard-risk domestic abuse cases. Many of them don’t have enough training and have very heavy workloads.

Specialist investigators are based in the DAPIT. The team’s objectives include identifying repeat victims and perpetrators. However, there aren’t enough resources to investigate all high-risk domestic abuse incidents. This means that domestic abuse victims, including some high-risk victims, aren’t getting the standard of service they need.

Northamptonshire Police works with organisations to provide specialist safeguarding to vulnerable people. Officers have access to support from mental health professionals through Operation Alloy. The operation is a mental health triage scheme set up in partnership with a mental health trust. Mental health nurses work with officers attending incidents that involve people with mental health conditions. Officers we spoke to said that the scheme is positive because they are better informed about the correct course of action to take. This means vulnerable people get a better service. The scheme generally operates between 8.00am and midnight. And the University of Northampton’s Institute for Public Safety, Crime and Justice is evaluating it.

The force has also begun a 12-month pilot scheme called the ‘high intensive network Northamptonshire’. It supports the main users of mental health and police services. This should reduce the number of section 136 mental health detentions. People who use the service sign a voluntary agreement to promote independence. Progress is tracked and there has been initial success that has seen less contact from the service user with the NHS and police. Feedback is used to improve services.

The force works with agencies to identify and respond to cases of CSE. There is a multi-agency reducing incidents of sexual exploitation (RISE) team. It investigates allegations of CSE, targets offenders, manages and develops intelligence, and engages with vulnerable children and young people.

The RISE team is made up of police, social workers and a specialist nurse. Agencies can refer a child at risk of exploitation to the team. Staff then carry out a thorough risk assessment of the case. The assessment considers information from:

  • missing episodes;
  • school concerns;
  • misuse of substances;
  • carer relationships;
  • accommodation concerns;
  • abusive/exploitative behaviour;
  • engagement with appropriate services;
  • sexual health;
  • associations with gangs/criminals or adults who pose a risk; and
  • social media.

A review panel then agrees a risk management plan and sends a referral to other agencies. This process is overseen by the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Board.

Northamptonshire Police’s approach to dealing with missing people is not always effective. We found examples of missing children, who are at risk of exploitation, being categorised as absent or ‘missing – no risk’. Policies state that this shouldn’t happen. Yet we found 107 cases of missing children being dealt with under the category ‘missing – no apparent risk (absent)’ between January 2018 and January 2019. These records relate to 76 separate children. Fifteen of these have been reported missing on more than one occasion, and six children had three or more absent records during this period. In one recent case, a 17-year-old female was recorded as ‘missing no risk/absent’ for over 48 hours.

The force has improved its understanding of the nature and scale of some missing people cases since our last inspection, although it hasn’t yet acted on its findings. It now has a problem profile for missing people under the age of 18. This includes some detailed analysis of the problem and makes several recommendations for next steps.

We found limited evidence of the force working with other agencies to problem solve and address the underlying issues in cases where children go missing regularly. Information relating to missing people is often only held on the missing persons ICT system (Compact). The information isn’t routinely transferred onto Niche RMS. This means that opportunities to develop intelligence on connected SOC problems may be missed. For example, some children who repeatedly go missing may be vulnerable to CSE or being ‘groomed’ into joining gangs or organised crime groups (OCGs).

Some forces create plans, known as ‘trigger plans’, for people who repeatedly go missing. These include places where the person has been found before, people they are known to associate with, and other information already known about the missing person. Northamptonshire Police doesn’t have any equivalent trigger plans for the most frequently missing children, although it intends to create these and add them to a Niche RMS record.

In 2018, the force’s national child protection inspection (NCPI) made several recommendations relating to missing children. These haven’t yet been addressed. The inspection identified poor risk assessment processes in the force control room. This resulted in risks to children being assessed incorrectly. This means that vulnerable children may not be adequately protected from harm.

Supporting vulnerable victims

Neighbourhood teams are aware of the RSOs and dangerous offenders in their area. They would benefit from working consistently with the management of sexual or violent offenders team. This means that opportunities to gather intelligence may be missed.

Northamptonshire Police has an effective multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) process. MARAC involves regular local meetings to address domestic abuse issues. Police referrals follow the charity SafeLives’ recommendations. Of all referrals to the MARAC, 86 percent are from the force. The national police referral rate averages 66 percent. There have been 167 domestic violence protection orders granted between January 2018 and December 2018.

The force uses legal powers to protect victims of domestic abuse. The provisions available through Clare’s Law are managed well, with regular weekly panel meetings that make sure information is shared promptly, when appropriate.

The force has adopted Operation Encompass. This aims to safeguard and support children and young people who have been involved in, or are affected by, domestic abuse-related incidents. If a child has been affected by an incident, a school’s ‘key adult’ is contacted by 9.00am the next day and told about the incident. Arrangements are then made to support the child at school. The force doesn’t specifically ask for feedback from vulnerable victims to improve its services.

The force works with agencies to make sure that vulnerable people are safeguarded. The force’s MASH deals with children’s safeguarding matters. A different team deals with safeguarding adults. The children’s MASH exchanges information between agencies. Officers who attend incidents complete a PPN. This summarises the vulnerabilities of victims and is then sent to the MASH. Staff in the MASH share PPNs with social care, who also send the information to agencies if certain criteria are met. At times when social workers aren’t available, deciding if a case meets the threshold for a strategy meeting can be inconsistent. This means that opportunities to safeguard some children may be missed.

The force is proactive in identifying those who share indecent images of children online. It has achieved positive results in the past from the cases initiated by the National Crime Agency’s child exploitation and online protection team.

The force monitors the relevant systems daily but not all notifications are acted on. This may present a risk to children. Investigators in the HTCU review and classify digital images of abuse. The police online investigation team (POLIT) then take enforcement or disruptive action. This has increased the HTCU’s workload and created backlogs in their cases awaiting action. It also means that opportunities to safeguard victims may be being missed.

HTCU investigators are given counselling every six months to support them in this difficult area of policing. The force is aware of the capacity problems within the HTCU. It plans to review the working arrangements with the POLIT to improve the service it provides.

Northamptonshire Police adequately manages and assesses the risks posed by dangerous and sex offenders. We were pleased the force had reduced the backlog of visits to RSOs since our last inspection. There were over 300 outstanding visits back then. During this inspection, there were 44 outstanding visits to RSOs. These consisted of two very high-, 11 high-, 15 medium- and 16 low-risk offenders.

The force uses its powers effectively to protect the public. It is managing 366 individuals subject to sexual offences prevention orders, 283 sexual harm prevention orders and four sexual risk orders. The force should continue to make sure that it has a sustainable solution to manage the risks posed by RSOs.

Summary for question 3
4

How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The force should develop a more detailed understanding of all threats posed by serious and organised crime. To do this, it needs to define what information it needs from other agencies. It should reduce the backlog of intelligence submissions awaiting evaluation and analysis. This would make sure it identifies and acts on all important information quickly.
  • The force should enhance its approach to the ‘lifetime management’ of organised criminals. This would minimise the risk they pose to local communities. This approach should consider additional orders, the powers of other organisations and tools to deter organised criminals from continuing to offend.
  • The force should better understand of the impact of its work on serious and organised crime across the ‘four Ps’. It must use learn to maximise the force’s disruptive effect on this criminal activity.
  • The force should assign capable lead responsible officers to all active organised crime groups. This must be part of a long-term, multi-agency approach to dismantling them. Lead responsible officers should take a balanced approach across the ‘four Ps’ framework and have a consistently good knowledge of available tactics.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.

Understanding threats

Northamptonshire Police has recently set out its vision and policing priorities. SOC is one of its six priorities.

The force has developed a better understanding of SOC since our last inspection, particularly in relation to county lines, firearms and gang violence. The force now has a structured approach to identifying and prioritising those involved in SOC through its new serious crime matrix.

The force intelligence bureau (FIB) developed the matrix. It scans force ICT systems for new crimes and intelligence potentially relating to organised crime and criminals. These include firearms, knives, noxious substances, modern slavery, human trafficking, child exploitation, cuckooing, drugs, serious sexual offences, PPNs and threats between criminal groups. FIB analysts then apply MORiLE scoring to information from the matrix. This helps the force when it allocates resources every fortnight. The force is developing the matrix so that it can use data from other agencies. This will provide more detailed intelligence.

The force has completed a problem profile on CSE. This is being assessed and developed by the county council analyst. It will give the force and county council a better understanding of the problem. They can then develop joint plans to tackle it.

The serious crime matrix is used to assess threats posed by OCGs, urban street gangs and those involved in county lines offences. Neighbourhood teams use up-to-date information from beat profiles and the force intranet (Force Net). This is giving them a better awareness of county lines and other serious and organised criminals.

Good-quality analytical products are now used by analysts and intelligence teams. A good-quality local SOC profile is supporting the force’s work with other agencies. This profile is updated every quarter and published internally and externally. It is also sent to independent advisory groups.

The force has tried to gather intelligence from other partners through the SOC partnership board. However, analytical products currently rely heavily on police data. This means that intelligence isn’t as complete as it could be.

At the time of our fieldwork, there was a backlog in processing intelligence reports submitted by officers and staff. There is a robust triage process in place to make sure vulnerability and force priorities, such as SOC, are processed on time. There are delays, however, in some intelligence being acted on. Until the information is processed, it isn’t visible to everyone who may need it. The force has a plan to reduce and manage this backlog. In the meantime, opportunities to understand and tackle SOC may be being missed.

Northamptonshire Police shares data with other organisations about SOC. It understands where there are gaps in intelligence and requests information from other agencies. At a tactical level, police officers, staff and teams in other agencies spoke highly of the cuckooing partnership group in Northampton. The group exchanges information and has multi-agency intervention plans in place.

The force also accessed Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority data. This helped inform its human trafficking and modern slavery problem profile. Healthcare practitioners attended visits where there were concerns about potential slavery.

More could be done strategically when gathering intelligence on OCGs. The force asks for information from agencies (often using E-CINs). However, there isn’t a mechanism for agencies to share information regularly. This means it is difficult to get a full understanding of all SOC threats, particularly for cybercrime.

The force intends to address this in several ways. It plans to:

  • publish a strategic threat assessment;
  • allocate resources strategically every quarter; and
  • launch a new intelligence requirement. This should help agencies better understand how the information they hold may help the police. Agencies will then be better able to gather new information to support the police to tackle SOC.

The force doesn’t identify and assess all OCGs consistently. As of 1 April 2018, Northamptonshire Police had mapped 29.7 OCGs per one million of the population. This is below the rate for England and Wales. It is a reduction compared with 1 July 2017, when the figure was 32.7 OCGs per one million population.

A high proportion of mapped OCGs are involved in supplying drugs. This indicates that the force doesn’t fully understand or manage OCGs involved in other types of criminality. By not proactively identifying and mapping all OCGs, the force is limiting its own understanding of SOC. It is also undermining the regional and national threat picture.

The force receives some tactical advice from the ROCU. This gives it a better understanding of OCGs in the county. The force should draw on regional support more often.

Northamptonshire Police uses a structured approach to assess urban street gangs, county lines and other criminal networks. This helps the force understand the threat they pose. It now needs to be more consistently proactive in its approach.

Information relating to missing people is often only held on the missing persons system (Compact). It isn’t routinely transferred onto Niche RMS. This means that opportunities to develop intelligence on connected SOC problems may be being missed. For example, some children repeatedly going missing may be vulnerable to exploitation or may be being ‘groomed’ into joining gangs or OCGs. This means that the force doesn’t have a full understanding of SOC.

Serious and organised crime prevention

Northamptonshire Police has some initiatives in place to identify those at risk of being drawn into SOC and deter them from offending. The new gang intervention programme, CIRV, is based on a programme used in Glasgow, Cincinnati and Boston (USA). It has Home Office funding for two years. Other cities that have taken part have seen a fall in gang violence and offending. Employment has also increased among those involved in such programmes. This is a new project for the force and we look forward to seeing the results.

The force is also running an early intervention pilot in one part of the county. This involves working with schools to identify children at risk of becoming involved with, or victims of, crime at the earliest opportunity. The University of Northamptonshire is evaluating it.

The force doesn’t have an effective approach to managing lifetime offenders with other organisations. This isn’t helping to reduce organised criminals re-offending. The force has only basic arrangements in place to manage some organised criminals’ activity in prison and on release. And these arrangements aren’t used consistently.

The force is told about prison releases six months before the date, but people only receive minimal monitoring when they are released. And there isn’t any continued work with the ROCU to monitor offenders’ activities in prison.

The force is managing four serious crime prevention orders (SCPOs) – all instigated by the ROCU. The force hasn’t initiated any SCPOs in the past 12 months and there is little evidence that the current SCPOs are being monitored or enforced. These orders can restrict offenders’ abilities to plan, fund and commit serious crime in future. The force recognises that it needs to improve in this area.

The force has some innovative ways to raise awareness among the public of SOC. It has created the Operation Viper brand, which promotes police activity against SOC. This is carried out through social media and traditional ways such as leaflet drops.

There have been many SOC press campaigns. These include Operation Bling, which raised awareness about unexplained wealth. The head of corporate communications is a member of the county partnership media board. The board has worked with the community safety partnerships on knife crime linked to SOC. This activity could be more targeted to where there are gaps in intelligence.

The force has co-hosted a series of events with the community engagement charity, ROC. The aim is to encourage community involvement in tackling SOC. Officers and the youth offending service staff visit primary and secondary schools to talk about county lines, CSE and violence.

Disruption and investigation

Northamptonshire Police prioritises activity that tackles SOC. It uses analysis and MoRiLE scoring to support its decisions.

The force identifies OCGs according to national guidance. It then shares these with the ROCU to be mapped, with appropriate tiers allocated. The force has a better relationship with the ROCU since our last inspection. This is helping to tackle SOC.

There is an active force-wide SOC partnership board. The two community safety partnerships are responsible for governing the SOC strategy. The partnership board reports into these. We found examples of the force working well with agencies to tackle SOC. For example, social workers join policing teams carrying drug supply warrants to identify vulnerable people who may need access to social care services.

Lead responsible officers (LROs) have been appointed since our last inspection. They have some training on crime disruption tactics, but most would benefit from more training to make knowledge and skills more consistent across departments.

The force regularly reviews plans to tackle SOC and uses the national framework known as 4Ps (pursue, prevent, protect and prepare). The force also reviews threat assessment scores at a monthly OCG management board meeting. The board governs the force’s approach to tackling SOC, holding the LROs to account on how they manage OCGs across the 4Ps. It also considers resources and capability to tackle these offenders. Some of the 4P plans show improvements since our last inspection. They reference signposting vulnerable individuals into the early intervention hub or cuckooing groups.

The force remains focused on prosecuting people taking part in SOC. It plans to improve its prevention, protection and preparation capabilities. To help achieve this, it has appointed a superintendent who will make sure that effective senior leadership supports the force’s approach to tackling SOC.

Northamptonshire Police lacks capability to be fully effective at tackling SOC. This is because of limited knowledge and skills around a range of tactics, particularly covert options. The force is training the proactive and SOC teams to use covert techniques.

The force is also reviewing its roads policing capability to establish whether this is enough to tackle SOC and county lines. We identified some good examples of departments working together to tackle SOC and county lines, such as Operation Saxon. The force is also working more closely with other agencies, including the Metropolitan and West Midlands police forces.

The force has made an impact on SOC across the 4Ps. It regularly reviews 4P plans and threat assessment scores. The force records disruptions of OCGs and individuals in line with national guidance. A disruption moderation panel is used to achieve this.

The force doesn’t routinely review its SOC investigations to encourage learning. And there is no evidence of good practice or holding post-operation debriefs to identify ‘lessons learned’. The force is addressing this by developing the moderation panel to not only review the impact of disruptive activity but also to act as a learning forum for SOC. Colleagues from the ROCU attend panel meetings. There are plans for learning and development colleagues to evaluate its potential.

The force makes limited use of financial investigation tactics to tackle SOC. Financial investigators are allocated to some SOC investigations but not all. It is raising awareness among the workforce, through training, of the role of financial investigators. It is too early to know what the impact will be.

Northamptonshire Police has recently received the findings of a National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and Home Office peer review. It mirrors our findings and makes several recommendations.

Summary for question 4
5

How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?

Ungraded

Understanding the threat and responding to it

The force has a good understanding of the potential harm facing the public. Its APSTRA conforms to the requirements of the code and the College of Policing guidance. The APSTRA is published annually and is accompanied by a register of risks and other observations. The designated chief officer reviews the register frequently to maintain the right levels of armed capability and capacity.

The force also has a good understanding of the armed criminals who operate in Northamptonshire and neighbouring force areas. Northamptonshire Police is alert to the likelihood of terrorist attacks and has identified venues that may require additional protection in times of heightened threat.

All armed officers in England and Wales are trained to national standards. There are different standards for each role that armed officers perform. Most armed incidents in Northamptonshire are attended by officers trained to an armed response vehicle (ARV) standard. However, incidents sometimes occur that require the skills and specialist capabilities of officers who are more highly trained.

Northamptonshire Police currently works with Leicestershire Police and Lincolnshire Police to provide all aspects of armed policing. Recently, agreement has been reached to change this relationship to one that only focuses on delivering consistent standards of training and command of armed operations in all three forces.

Northamptonshire Police has enough ARV capability and has plans to increase this further during 2019 in response to changes to existing working arrangements agreed with regional colleagues.

We found that Northamptonshire Police has good arrangements in place to mobilise officers with enough specialist capabilities in line with the threats and risks identified in its APSTRA.

Working with others

It is important that effective joint working arrangements are in place between neighbouring forces. Armed criminals and terrorists have no respect for county boundaries. Therefore, armed officers must be prepared to deploy flexibly in the knowledge that they can work seamlessly with officers in other forces. It is also important that any one force can call on support from surrounding forces in times of heightened threat.

Northamptonshire Police has enough ARV officers and specialist capabilities in line with the threats set out in the APSTRA. Until recently, Northamptonshire had joint arrangements in place with Leicestershire and Lincolnshire police forces to provide armed policing. The three forces have agreed to continue to share training facilities, which helps to standardise procedures as well as reducing costs. The governance of these new arrangements is, however, still developing. We will monitor progress closely.

We also examined how well-prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in Northamptonshire Police are trained in tactics that take account of the types of recent terrorist attacks. Also, Northamptonshire Police has an important role in designing training exercises with other organisations that simulate these types of attack. We found that these training exercises are reviewed carefully so that learning points are identified and improvements made for the future.

In addition to debriefing training exercises, we also found that Northamptonshire reviews the outcome of all firearms incidents that officers attend. This helps ensure that best practice or areas for improvement are identified. We also found that this knowledge is used to improve training and operational procedures.

Summary for question 5