Thames Valley PEEL 2018
How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?
Thames Valley Police is effective at reducing crime and keeping people safe. But it needs to improve how it investigates low level crime.
The number of crimes the force records has increased since our 2017 inspection, while the number of offenders brought to justice has decreased. It needs to understand why this has happened and make sure that investigations are consistently well supervised, and that staff have the skills and support to conduct high quality investigations.
Overall, the force is good at protecting vulnerable people and works well with partner agencies to achieve this. But the increase in the number of domestic abuse crimes the force has recorded since our 2017 inspection has not been matched by increased arrests or offenders brought to justice. The force doesn’t use protective powers for victims of domestic abuse as much as many other forces. It needs to understand and address these issues.
In 2017, we judged Thames Valley Police to be good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. In 2016, we judged the force to be good at tackling serious and organised crime (SOC).
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 effectiveness inspection has been carried over. However, this inspection identified one area for improvement:
- The force should evaluate and share effective practice routinely, both internally and with partners, continually to improve its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour.
As part of our risk-based approach to inspection, we reviewed the force’s progress in this area. The force now publishes a regular internal document summarising what staff have learned from academic research on policing topics. However, officers in safer neighbourhood teams told us that they hadn’t received much information about effective practice. The force still has some work to do to fully address this area for improvement.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
The force requires improvement in how it investigates crime.
Serious crime is investigated well, but the investigation of less complex crime needs to improve. The force closes some investigations too early, it doesn’t record victim contract details consistently, and supervision is not always effective. Investigators experience delays in receiving forensic evidence and evidence from electronic devices.
The force knows it needs to improve in this area. It has created a comprehensive plan to achieve this and a chief officer is leading the plan. This is still in its early stages, but the action the force is starting to take is encouraging.
The force is good at catching criminals. It has effective processes in place to identify foreign national offenders who are arrested and makes good use of the Police National Computer (PNC) to circulate information about people who are wanted for arrest. It provides timely information to its staff about people wanted for arrest in their area.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve how it allocates crime to ensure that investigations are allocated to appropriately trained officers.
- The force should ensure that it makes progress with those cases that should, on balance, be taken forward – even if the victim does not support the investigation – and that officers understand the importance of addressing risk and undertaking proportionate investigation and safeguarding activity.
- The force should reduce the backlog of digital investigations and ensure that all forensic evidence is analysed within timescales that are consistent with the pace of investigations.
- The force should ensure that there is regular and active supervision of less serious investigations to improve quality and progress.
- The force should ensure that it is fully compliant with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime with victim contract details consistently recorded and updated.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Thames Valley Police is good at understanding and identifying vulnerable people.
It is good at identifying them when they first make contact. It will become easier for staff to identify vulnerable people and record risks to them when the force installs its new contact management system.
Staff are good at recording the risk to victims of domestic abuse. We found that the force works well with partner organisations to protect and support vulnerable people.
The force records significantly more domestic abuse crimes than at the time of our 2017 inspection, but the number of arrests and people taken to court have remained similar. In addition, it makes less use of domestic abuse protective powers than most other forces in England and Wales. It recognises the need to improve in this area and has some plans, but it needs to make sure it fully understands why its enforcement activity has lagged recorded crime.
The force manages dangerous and sex offenders well but needs to make sure it is proactive in how it identifies online sex offenders.
Areas for improvement
- The force should make sure that it fully understands why the proportion of arrests and charge summonses outcomes for domestic abuse offences has reduced, and whether its high use of scheduled appointments to take reports of domestic abuse is a factor.
- The force should reassure itself that proper use is made of pre-charge bail and ancillary orders such as domestic violence protection orders and Clare’s Law to protect victims of domestic abuse.
- The force has an effective approach to identifying those sharing indecent images online but should make sure it is proactive in reducing the threat through the best use of intelligence.
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. However, Thames Valley Police had three areas for improvement in the 2016 effectiveness inspection. These were:
- The force should further develop its SOC local profiles in conjunction with partner organisations to enhance its understanding of the threat SOC poses and inform joint work aimed at reducing this threat.
- The force should engage routinely with partner agencies at a senior level to enhance intelligence sharing and promote an effective, multi-agency response to SOC.
- The force should improve the awareness of organised crime groups (OCGs) among neighbourhood teams to ensure that they can reliably identify these groups, collect intelligence and disrupt their activity.
As part of our risk-based approach to inspection, we assessed what progress had been made in these areas. All three have been satisfactorily addressed. The force now has a mature approach to dealing with SOC and more data from partner agencies is included in the SOC local profile, which is the force’s summary of local organised crime. There is an active SOC partnership board that co-ordinates the response of various agencies to this sort of criminality. Staff in neighbourhood teams are not only more aware of OCGs, but we found that they play an active role in disrupting their activities.
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 continues to focus on armed capability in England and Wales.
It is not just terrorist attacks that place operational demands on armed officers. The threat can include the activity of OCGs or 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