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Sussex PEEL 2018

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 21/01/2020
Good

Force x is

Force x is

Questions for Effectiveness

1

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

Good

Areas for improvement

  • The force should work with local people and partner organisations to improve its understanding of local communities.
  • The force should ensure that it spends more time on proactive prevention activity to prevent crime and disorder.
  • The force needs to ensure that it applies a more consistent approach to its prevention model across all three divisions.
  • The force should evaluate and share effective practice routinely, both internally and with partners, to improve its approach to the prevention of 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

Sussex Police’s approach to neighbourhood policing has improved – but there is more to do. As one of a range of decisions to meet its financial targets, the force decided to reduce local policing staff in 2015. For five years, we have been concerned that this has limited the force’s ability to prevent crime and ASB.

The force launched its revised prevention model in November 2017. Through this model, it aimed to focus more clearly on prevention in local policing.

We were pleased to see that the force now has a clear strategy for neighbourhood policing. This strategy covers the principles set out in the College of Policing’s neighbourhood policing guidelines.

The force is also about to invest in 100 extra PCSOs after the recent confirmation of a rise in council tax funding.

Prevention teams are no longer responsible for specific ‘beats’. They cover one of six larger districts within the three divisions: West Sussex, East Sussex, and Brighton and Hove.

Police officers and PCSOs carry out community engagement and problem-solving activities in each area based on vulnerability and threat, harm and risk.

The force’s approach is reactive: demand is led through calls for service. However, once the force has identified patterns and issues, prevention staff work effectively with partners to find a solution.

Most police officers and PCSOs on prevention teams have had problem-solving training and are aware of the scanning, analysis, response, assessment (SARA) model that the force has mandated to be used. However, the model is inconsistently applied across the force.

Staff are given responsibility for specific community groups such as faith groups or elderly people to focus on in their districts. But they haven’t received any extra training for this.

The teams cover large areas. This, and the fact that the force has withdrawn PCSOs from rural areas, means that local knowledge and community intelligence are more limited, while community engagement has reduced. However, this is balanced by the force’s ability to focus efforts on specific problem areas.

Prevention enforcement teams give extra support. The force accepts that they will be taken away on other commitments about half the time, unlike other prevention staff who are ‘protected’ by force policy.

Staff reported slight variations in the model across the three divisions. In some places, staff are drifting back to their old beats when they have the opportunity.

Frontline prevention staff also report being regularly taken away from their core duties to support response colleagues. They report that officers don’t see this as a problem. The force doesn’t have any data for this. So it is difficult to say how much time officers spend away from their main role.

Protecting the public from crime

Sussex Police could do more to understand the threats facing its communities. The force has produced community profile documents for all areas of the force. These use both police and partnership data to show information on specific groups living in each district – including emerging communities.

The force identifies opportunities to work with local communities to understand them better. But they are limited to the previously mentioned groups of people, like the faith community.

The force made the decision to attend community meetings only when there is a policing purpose and it would add value. This makes it more difficult for local officers to gain in-depth understanding of their local communities and any threats to them.

The force gives good analytical support to its prevention teams. Each of the three districts has an analyst dedicated to prevention. Their role is to review all crimes reported every fortnight, identifying any patterns or similarities that can be used to generate maps and tasks for prevention teams.

The analysts also work with partners. For example, they have worked with partners in children’s services to evaluate the police’s response to teenagers’ ASB. The analysts also worked with the fire service to map a series of bin fires in a deprived area of Sussex, identifying two potential suspects.

The force is good at problem solving. Prevention teams use problem-solving templates to record activity against problems. The force supervises them effectively and they reflect good partnership working with partners like the local authority responsible for housing.

The force also takes part in various partnership meetings such as community safety partnerships and joint action groups. There is an effective partnership tactical tasking process working well in all divisions.

The force has recently been successful in a bid for funding for the ‘reboot’ initiative. This is aimed at early intervention to prevent young people from committing crime and ASB. It is too early to say how effective this will be.

ASB incidents continue to fall: 23.44 per 1,000 population compared to 27.79 per 1,000 population nationally. However, the force could do more to use ASB powers more effectively.

Data on the use of ASB powers shows that most interventions are dispersal orders (106) – which give police the power to disperse individuals or groups causing, or likely to cause, ASB in
public places.

The force has only recorded 18 criminal behaviour orders and 12 community protection notices in the past 12 months. This is despite prevention staff’s good understanding of the powers available to them and their partners. Officers recognised this as an issue.

The force recognises that it needs to improve how it evaluates its activity and identifies best practice and it has reviewed the role of its knowledge exchange team to work more closely with academic partners and the College of Policing to achieve this.

In the meantime, the force has published learning from two case studies on its intranet. Plus, every month there is a prevention working group, where the three analysts meet, along with their managers, district commanders and other invited people.

In this meeting, they discuss the tactics used by the force, how effective they are and how they can improve their work to help frontline prevention staff. Currently, there is limited evidence of how this learning is shared with prevention teams or used to improve services to the public.

Summary for question 1
2

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

Good

This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.

3

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

Requires improvement

Cause of concern

Sussex Police is failing to manage risk effectively. In the force control room, some vulnerable victims are left without police attendance for considerable periods of time. Some victims may not be getting through to the police at all because on average 43 percent of calls to 101 are abandoned. Some investigations involving vulnerable people are taking a long time, without any reassessment of risk to the victim. This means that the force is missing opportunities to safeguard victims and secure evidence.

Recommendations

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

  • improve its management of risk;
  • ensure that staff and officers fully understand risk, and risk assessments such as THRIVE and DASH, through effective training;
  • review its processes in the control room to ensure risk is mitigated where possible and vulnerable victims see police quickly enough;
  • improve the quality of investigations involving vulnerable people, ensuring that the workloads of specialist investigators are always manageable and that such investigations are subject to regular and active supervision;
  • ensure all staff and officers dealing with vulnerable victims put measures in place to effectively manage initial and continued risk to victims, and record their actions; and
  • change its 101 call handling processes to reduce the number of callers who hang up.

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

Sussex Police has a clear vulnerability strategy and uses the College of Policing’s definition of vulnerability. A person is vulnerable if, as a result of their situation or circumstances, they are unable to take care of, or protect themselves or others, from harm or exploitation.

The force continues to improve its ability to identify people who are vulnerable through their age, disability, or because they have been victims of repeated offences, or are at high risk of abuse.

Officers and staff understand vulnerability. Partners confirmed that the force’s vulnerability identification was effective. Officers and staff have received online training and 60-second video briefings about vulnerability. They have also had training on domestic abuse and ‘hidden harm’ such as child sexual exploitation.

The number of honour-based incidents identified by the force proves the active steps it takes to uncover hidden harm. In the year ending July 2018, it identified 149 – the highest nationally.

Sussex Police identifies vulnerable and repeat victims the first time they make contact, although they may not get the support they need (see below). Staff in the contact centre use THRIVE consistently and effectively to assess risk at the first stage.

However, the force has a high abandonment rate on the non-urgent police 101 number. Calls are answered quickly by the switchboard and are assessed as non-urgent if callers don’t need a 999 response. Of those non-urgent calls put through to call takers, on average 40 percent are going unanswered. The force can’t identify potentially vulnerable people when these calls are dropped.

Responding to incidents

Sussex Police doesn’t always respond to vulnerable victims quickly enough to keep them safe.

The force previously had target response times, promising the public it would arrive within 15 minutes for a Grade 1 (emergency) response, and 60 minutes for a Grade 2 (prompt) response. These targets have now been removed and replaced with ‘tolerance’ levels. But it is unclear what these levels are.

There is more demand for police at incidents that need a Grade 2 (prompt) response than the force has staff for.

For example, the average time it takes for the force to get to a Grade 2 call has doubled, rising to 2 hours 45 minutes on average for the year ending February 2019.

Sussex Police’s senior leaders suggest that managing risk effectively is better than meeting attendance times. But excessive delays mean the force can’t always address all the risks.

Sergeants are ready to review incidents waiting for a response. However, their view of risk is mixed and there is limited evidence of THRIVE being reassessed when needed. If sergeants do identify an incident that needs a quicker response, they are unable to ensure that response teams take appropriate action.

The force understands the importance of assessing vulnerability and uses tools such as DASH. But it doesn’t have a good understanding of managing the risks around it.

The control room uses an unstructured, non-diarised appointment system for delayed response to incidents, including domestic abuse. If the first THRIVE assessment results in a Grade 3 response (which doesn’t need immediate attention), the force asks the victim when they would be available for an officer to attend. This creates an ‘appointment’ for the force to see the victim.

There are daily examples of these ‘appointments’ being missed by the force as it struggles to respond to more urgent calls. As a result, there are often significant delays before any officer sees the victim, despite an initial assessment that they may be vulnerable.

Inspectors should be told if the ‘window’ has been missed three times. But this was not always the case. Once reviewed, inspectors sometimes make a decision to give the incident to an officer to investigate, even though the victim hasn’t been seen.

Sometimes the officer was on nights or rest days, delaying the police response even more. Worryingly, we found examples of incidents involving vulnerable victims (including victims of domestic abuse) that had not been attended by the police for ten days or more.

One example was a victim who suffered from mental health problems and was suicidal. She reported mental, physical and financial abuse by her partner. The force first classified the incident as Grade 2, for a prompt response. However, it missed many appointments with the woman over nine days. At one point, the control room had written on the incident log that there were more than 50 calls in the queue with 40 unresourced, just for the Chichester area of Sussex. The victim was finally seen by an officer nine days after her first report, and a criminal investigation was started.

In our 2017 effectiveness inspection, we commended the force on introducing a ‘vulnerability queue’ monitored by a member of staff in the contact centre 24 hours a day. The force’s domestic abuse incidents, risk assessed as not needing immediate attention (Grade 3 incidents), were reviewed and reassessed over and over until officers could make face-to-face contact with the victims.

Because of the delays we have mentioned, this has turned into a system where staff make repeated attempts to call a victim to rearrange missed appointments. Sometimes the victim can be difficult to contact. Victims are often reluctant to answer an unknown number in case it is the suspect. Staff leave messages for victims to make contact quoting a code name, so they avoid the call queue. But this rarely happens and so staff can’t make a THRIVE reassessment.

There was evidence of victims disengaging with the force after staff repeatedly failed to attend appointments. This could have an impact on the public’s confidence to report crimes in the future, and leave victims at risk of further harm.

Once officers and staff arrive at an incident, they are good at assessing victims’ vulnerability. They promptly complete and submit single combined assessment of risk forms (SCARFs) and a safeguarding template for all vulnerable victims on the force crime recording system, Niche.

However, increased demand is also having an impact on the force’s ability to investigate crimes promptly. Investigation teams are struggling to meet demand. Officers and staff report high workloads and significant delays. 

The force’s investigations continue to be of a reasonable standard. But the force doesn’t continually reassess risk. And delays of several months in some cases mean that hidden risk and vulnerability may be missed as other crimes take priority. The force has worked hard to relieve the pressure caused by increased demand on its safeguarding and investigation teams (SIUs), which deal with the most vulnerable victims. But this puts increased pressure on teams that investigate the remaining higher-risk crimes such as serious violence and sexual assaults. The force plans to increase the headcount of these teams. But these are long-term plans – there is limited evidence of any attempts to address the more immediate issues.

We were pleased to see that Sussex Police has improved its arrest rate for victims of domestic abuse considerably since 2017. The average arrest rate for the year ending September 2018 was 47 percent, against 38.8 percent in 2017. This was considerably higher than the England and Wales rate of 32 percent.

The force recognises that a domestic abuse incident with a Grade 1 response achieves a much higher arrest rate of 60–70 percent. It has given guidance to officers encouraging them to take positive action whenever appropriate.

We noted some good practice around domestic abuse incidents. Officers can now listen to the victim’s original call while they are going to the incident. This gives them a better understanding of the call’s context. The force hopes it will help increase arrest rates in the future.

The force has an effective mental health triage partnership arrangement with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, providing a joint response to people in mental health crisis. A mental health nurse works alongside a police officer in a ‘triage car’ in six locations across Sussex. The triage car is highly regarded by both the force and partner agencies.

Following the evaluation of a successful pilot, funding has been approved for an extra mental health nurse in the control room to help with the increasing number of mental health-related incidents.

Supporting vulnerable victims

The force is improving its support to vulnerable victims. Its use of legal powers to protect victims of domestic abuse has steadily increased. These legal powers include domestic violence protection notices (DVPNs) and domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs). The force applied for DVPOs 216 times over the year to July 2018. To ensure consistency, the entire court side of the process has been handed to the force’s legal team.

The force could improve the way it uses Clare’s Law (the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme). Force applications for ‘right to know’ are below average for England and Wales at 0.05 applications per 1,000 population (the average is 0.13). There is a similar picture for ‘right to ask’ applications.

Sussex Police uses pre-charge bail appropriately to keep victims of domestic abuse safe. The force needs to understand how it can use these options to the greatest effect.

Sussex Police contributes effectively to the three multi-agency safeguarding hubs (MASHs) across the county. All the force’s SCARF forms are submitted to the MASH and all those relating to adults are sent to the council-led adult social care team.

There is no representation from adult social care in the MASH and so no joint triage or strategy meeting process for adults. However, the force also participates in multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) where staff discuss adult safeguarding with partners.

The force’s referral rate for MARACs is 30 cases per 10,000 women. This is below SafeLives’ recommended number of 40 cases. Most of these referrals are from the police. All high-risk cases are referred. Prevention teams receive referrals from MARACs to support ongoing safeguarding of the most vulnerable victims. The force carries out surveys of domestic abuse victims, which it uses to improve its understanding and the service it gives whenever possible.

The force is good at managing offenders who are a risk to vulnerable people. This includes registered sex offenders and people sharing indecent images of children online. The police online investigation team referral unit uses the Kent internet risk assessment tool. The current backlog for assessment meets national guidelines.

Officers’ workloads are typically around 16 investigations per person. The force describes this as manageable. The unit is sufficiently resourced and has capacity to react dynamically and quickly to high-risk incidents and offenders.

For example, a referral was made reporting a man on his phone allegedly in bed sexually abusing his daughter. The team got a warrant and were at the address and apprehending the man within 45 minutes. The force also makes effective use of ancillary orders to protect the public. These include sexual risk orders and sexual harm protection orders (132 over the year to July 2018).

The force could do more to ensure that prevention teams are made aware of registered sex offenders in their area. Staff reported that they were advised on the highest-risk offenders in their district through their daily team briefing. However, this information is only given if there have been any changes in those offenders’ circumstances – like moving house or new intelligence reports. The prevention teams generally did not know where registered sex offenders lived in their communities.

Summary for question 3
4

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

Good

This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.

5

How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?

Ungraded

Understanding the threat and responding to it

Sussex Police operates joint arrangements with Surrey Police to provide armed policing. This means that the standards of training, armed deployments and command of armed operations are assured in both forces.

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. It prioritises the threats to communities in Sussex and Surrey and ensures professional standards of armed policing. The designated chief officer reviews the register frequently to maintain the right levels of armed capability and capacity.

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 Sussex are attended by officers trained to an armed response vehicle (ARV) standard. However, incidents sometimes occur that require the skills and specialist capabilities of more highly trained officers.

The availability of specialist officers in Sussex and Surrey is guaranteed by excellent working relationships with the regional counter-terrorist unit (CTU). Tried and tested arrangements mean that specialist officers can immediately be called upon should their skills be needed. We also recognise how effectively both forces have worked with the CTU to determine where best to situate operational bases in the south-east of England. This means that armed officers from a number of forces have access to them and choose to develop their careers with the CTU. This includes a number of Sussex officers. As well as providing benefits to the individual, the arrangement helps to ensure that the CTU can maintain its establishment of highly skilled armed officers. 

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. As a consequence, 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.

This is an area where Sussex Police performs well. Close working with Surrey Police means that armed officers can deploy quickly and efficiently in the two counties. Effective plans are also in place with other forces in the south-east of England should additional support be needed.

We also examined how well prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in Sussex are trained in tactics that take account of the types of recent terrorist attacks. However, we consider that the force could do more, alongside other organisations, to plan exercises that simulate these types of attack. In other forces we visit, the involvement of ARV officers in these exercises has uncovered useful learning points and led to improvements.

We found that Sussex Police regularly debriefs incidents attended by armed officers. 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