Northumbria PEEL 2018
How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?
Northumbria Police requires improvement in how it reduces crime and keeps people safe.
The force needs to improve how it tackles crime and anti-social behaviour. Its training for neighbourhood teams could be better to ensure that they have the skills needed to be effective. It has invested in neighbourhood policing and has new approaches to tackle the causes of local problems. The local approach to understanding communities and what they expect from their police force could be more consistent.
The force makes sure that it uses anti-social behaviour powers proportionately. It is working with partner organisations on early intervention programmes, such as the troubled families programme. But this approach differs between area commands and relies on partnership relationships.
The force is good at investigating crime and reducing re-offending. Investigators are suitably trained, and all staff are focused on giving victims good care. They are aware of the need to gather evidence as early as possible.
The force needs to improve how it protects vulnerable people from harm and supports victims. At times, Northumbria Police doesn’t have enough officers available to respond appropriately to vulnerable victims. The force undertakes good work around domestic abuse, but the quality of its risk assessments should improve.
Not all calls are correctly graded, and officers don’t always attend within the target time. To keep victims safe, the force should respond based on the initial risk assessment, and not on officer availability.
The force is good at tackling serious and organised crime.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Northumbria Police’s overall approach to crime prevention needs to improve. The force has invested in neighbourhood policing, keeping teams in place across Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. But staff and officers in neighbourhood teams do not always have the skills and knowledge they need to fulfil their roles effectively. The force has reintroduced its problem-solving approach, aiming to tackle the root causes of local problems, but it hasn’t given enough formal training to support staff in implementing this.
At a strategic level, the force is good at assessing threats to the public. It makes good use of products such as MoRiLE, a tool for assessing the types of crimes that most threaten communities. But the picture is less positive at a local level, where the force’s approach can be disjointed. Neighbourhood teams don’t consistently use data to understand their communities, and there is little understanding and application of the force’s strategy for engaging with the public to find out what they expect from their police force.
The force uses a range of powers to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour. However, no central repository exists to search for which types of problem-solving intervention have worked, which means the force can’t learn from its past experiences.
Areas for improvement
- The force should review the process for the commissioning and analysis of problem profiles to make sure complex, emerging and hidden threats are fully understood.
- The force should make sure that the structured and consistent problem-solving process it is implementing to enable it to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour more effectively is fully understood and used by its officers and staff.
- The force should evaluate and share effective practice routinely, both internally and with relevant external organisations, to continually improve its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour.
- The force should work with local people and with other organisations to improve the consistency of its engagement approach (including those that are less likely to communicate with the police) and further improve its understanding of communities.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Northumbria Police investigates crime effectively. Its investigators are suitably trained, and crimes are generally allocated to the right people. It has plans to recruit enough staff to meet future demand.
Calls from the public are assessed using the THRIVE process (this assesses threat, harm, risk, investigative opportunity, vulnerability and opportunity for engagement). Some crimes are investigated over the telephone, and the force makes sure that only appropriate incidents are dealt with in this way.
Investigators pursue all lines of enquiry, and officers attending incidents are aware of the need to gather evidence at the earliest opportunity. The force has improved how it supervises investigations, with sergeants now required to set investigation plans and conduct regular reviews.
All staff are focused on giving victims good care. The force has a lead for victim care, which means that it can put the right support in place to help victims.
The force has a consistent approach to circulating suspects on the police national computer (PNC), and it works well with immigration partners to manage foreign national offenders (FNOs).
The workforce has a good understanding of the changes in bail legislation and uses bail and released under investigation (RUI) powers appropriately. The force has taken a proactive approach to national concerns about how well the police comply with disclosure rules.Detailed findings for question 2
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
We are concerned about the force’s ability to respond appropriately to vulnerable victims. There often aren’t enough officers available and, in many cases, incidents involving vulnerable people aren’t attended quickly enough. Calls are often incorrectly graded by the control room, and officers don’t attend within the target time.
Supervision is of variable quality. Some incidents were poorly supervised and hadn’t been prioritised for immediate action even though there was clear risk to victims. In some cases, supervisors failed to detect the risk, or to question a previous decision to delay the response. The force needs to do more to understand the nature and scale of vulnerability in its communities.
The force uses a range of powers to deal with domestic violence. It has a clear commitment to Clare’s Law, under which anyone can ask the police to check whether a partner has a violent past, and Sarah’s Law, which allows parents, carers and guardians to check whether someone has a criminal record for child sexual offences. Officers have received specialist training in how to tackle domestic abuse, and now have access to body-worn video.
Although the force is doing good work around domestic abuse, we have concerns about the quality of its risk assessments, many of which have been downgraded.
Northumbria Police recognises the benefits of intervening early to support people and families with complex needs. In October 2017, it launched a nine-month early intervention pilot, in which seven PCSOs in Sunderland and Northumberland worked with other agencies to support families. It is now considering the extension of this project.
Cause of concern
The force’s ability to assess vulnerability when victims first make contact, and the timeliness of the response they receive, are causes of concern. Northumbria Police needs to be certain that there are officers available to respond to their needs.
- In order to keep victims safe, the force’s response to incidents must be determined by the initial assessment of risk rather than the availability of response officers.
- Any decision to delay a response to a vulnerable victim must be fully justified and subject to objective supervision.
Areas for improvement
- The force should continue to develop its understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability within its local area through improving the data quality and information contained within its command and control system.
- The force should review its domestic abuse risk assessment grading policy to make sure it is compliant with the MARAC guidelines recommended by the national domestic abuse charity, SafeLives, with regards to escalation and repeat incidents. All changes need to be clearly communicated to staff.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
We inspected how well forces provide armed policing as part of our 2016 and 2017 effectiveness inspections. Subsequent terrorist attacks in the UK and Europe have meant that the police service maintains a focus on armed capability in England and Wales.
Armed officers don’t only deal with terrorist attacks: they also help to tackle OCGs, armed street gangs and all other crime involving guns. The Code of Practice on the Police Use of Firearms and Less Lethal Weapons (PDF document) makes forces responsible for implementing national standards of armed policing. The code stipulates that a chief officer be designated to oversee these standards. This requires the chief officer to set out the firearms threat in an armed policing strategic threat and risk assessment (APSTRA). The chief officer must also set out clear rationales for the number of armed officers (armed capacity) and the level to which they are trained (armed capability).Detailed findings for question 5