Cambridgeshire Constabulary: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2017

Overall judgment

graded requires improvement

Cambridgeshire Constabulary has made concerted efforts to improve crime-recording accuracy since HMIC’s 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report. The majority of officers and staff have made progress in placing the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions. We also found that the constabulary has:

  • introduced new crime-recording processes which has helped it improve the service it provides to victims, including moving the point at which crime-recording decisions are made to the initial point of contact;
  • an established victim hub which provides all victims of recorded crime with access to support services to which they are entitled, and more intensive support for the most vulnerable victims;
  • implemented all of the recommendations set out in our 2014 report; and
  • made good progress against a national action plan developed to improve crime-recording by police forces.

Work remains to be done, however. Despite advances, based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 March 2016 to 31 August 2016, we estimate that the force fails to record over 7,000 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 87.8 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.66 percent). The 12.2 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include serious crimes, such as sexual offences and violence. The recording rate for violent crime is of particular concern at only 80.0 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.15 percent). Improvements are therefore required in these areas.

In particular, we consider that these failures are due to an insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements by officers and staff, compounded by limited supervision to correct these decisions at the earliest opportunity.

Summary of inspection findings

The constabulary has improved its crime-recording processes since HMIC’s 2014 report. In particular, we found that the constabulary:

  • has an established victim hub which provides all victims of recorded crime with access to support services to which they are entitled, and more intensive support for the most vulnerable victims;
  • has made good progress with implementing changes recommended in the 2014 report, and as a result has completed all of these recommendations;
  • has an effective process for providing feedback to staff and officers who make poor crime-recording decisions, and has developed specific training which targets those areas where officers and staff regularly make the same mistakes; and
  • has introduced processes to ensure that out-of-court disposals, such as cautions, youth cautions and community resolutions, are always used appropriately. This work is supported by a scrutiny panel which sits every three months and provides support and guidance to the constabulary.

Additionally, the force crime and incident registrar (FCIR) – responsible for oversight of crime-recording arrangements – has completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and is now fully accredited. Her work is supported by a designated assistant chief constable, and a small team of staff. This progress is pleasing to see. Nevertheless, we found that the constabulary’s performance in respect of crime-recording could be better in the following areas:

  • The constabulary is currently under-recording:
    • sexual offences (excluding rape); and
    • violence crimes.
  • The constabulary uses a diary appointment system which is providing a poor service to some victims of crime, and is on occasion used inappropriately for attending to reports of serious crime, such as rape and domestic abuse.
  • Reports of crime received by the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) by email from other agencies are not always recorded.
  • Reports of crime resulting from domestic abuse incidents should be overseen by a supervisor in the force control room to ensure crime-recording decisions are correct, but this is not always happening.
  • Officers and staff are on occasions failing to use Language Line, a facility which enables them to communicate more effectively with someone whose first language is not English.
  • The constabulary must improve the extent to which it collects information regarding the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities.

Those failings are often a consequence of officers and staff not understanding their responsibilities for crime-recording. They are, in addition, underpinned by limited supervision by the constabulary of crime-recording decisions. Improvements are required in these areas.

The constabulary had identified these deficiencies at the time of our inspection. To address them it has subsequently:

  • introduced a crime data integrity review team (CDIRT), consisting of experienced officers working within the force control room, who have responsibility for ensuring that all decisions not to record a crime are correct and are justified; and
  • introduced a process whereby all reports of crime received by telephone into the constabulary are created at the point of contact with the person reporting the crime, other than those matters to which an officer is deployed immediately. In those other cases the officer attending the incident makes the crime-recording decision. In the case of serious matters the crime will be recorded in the force control room, which deals with 999 emergency calls, and in respect of less serious matters the crime will be recorded in the police service centre (PSC), which deals with 101 non-emergency calls.

These are welcome developments.

Areas for improvement

The constabulary should ensure that:

  • the diary appointment system is only routinely used for reports of less serious crime and that serious matters such as rape and domestic abuse are not resolved using this process, unless in exceptional circumstances in line with the victim’s wishes, and ensuring safeguarding needs are met;
  • all reports of crimes deemed suitable for a diary appointment are recorded at the first point of contact;
  • it satisfies itself as to the effectiveness of its recently introduced arrangements to record all reports of crime at the first point that sufficient information exists to do so and in any event within 24 hours of receipt of the report. In particular, it should satisfy itself as to the suitability and effectiveness of the supervisor in the force control room responsible for providing oversight of domestic abuse related crime-recording decisions;
  • it develops and operates procedures for the effective supervision of crime-recording decisions throughout the whole constabulary;
  • where necessary, officers and staff use Language Line in order to provide the best possible service to victims who do not speak English as their first language; and
  • the constabulary should improve how it collects diversity information from victims of crime and how it uses this to inform its compliance with its equality duty.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded requires improvement

Overall crime-recording rate

87.8% of reported crimes 
were recorded

Over 7,000 reports of crime a year are not recorded

The constabulary has further work to do in order to ensure it records all reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (PDF document) (HOCR). We examined reports of crime which the constabulary received, and for which an auditable record was created. The constabulary informed HMIC that 97.66 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime reporting route. This does not mean that 97.66 percent of crimes reported to Cambridgeshire Constabulary come through these routes but that 97.66 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the constabulary recorded 87.8 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.66 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 7,000 reports of crime each year. Those failings are depriving many victims of the services to which they are entitled.

Of a total of 1,444 reports of crime that we audited, we found 304 crimes that we assessed to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these 304 crimes, the constabulary had recorded 253. The 51 offences not recorded included a report of rape and offences of violence. Of these, we found that safeguarding requirements had been considered in the majority of cases, and an investigation undertaken in some, but not all. One victim reported that she was being harassed by her ex-partner. The attending officer agreed that an offence of harassment was present but failed to record the crime and conduct any investigation.

As domestic abuse often involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to further offences being committed against them, the importance of recording reported crimes of domestic abuse cannot be overstated. The constabulary operates a system whereby a supervisor in the force control room has responsibility for ensuring that all domestic abuse cases are investigated and that reported crimes recorded. HMIC found that this is not always happening and is an area for improvement.

Factors contributing to the constabulary’s under-recording of crime reports are its crime recording processes, and the crime-recording knowledge of its workforce.

  • Deficiencies in the crime-recording processes need to be addressed. In particular, we found that on occasion:
    • where there was no requirement to deploy an officer at the time, an appointment would be made for the victim to attend a police station to report the matter formally. For a number of reasons these appointments were often missed or cancelled, and on too many occasions the incident record would be closed without any report of crime being taken and therefore no crime record being recorded. Appointments were also used inappropriately for attending to reports of serious crime, such as rape and domestic abuse. This system, therefore, provides a poor service to many victims of crime;
    • where officers did attend reports of crime they sometimes failed to record crimes due to a lack of understanding of the rules and their obligations to record a crime; and
    • officers and staff did not always record a good or valid explanation for why a crime should not be recorded and there was an absence of robust supervision in the force control room and PSC to challenge this.
  • When dealing with complex crimes the call handlers and response officers were not always sure of the crime-recording requirements.

The FCIR, CDIRT and the incident management unit (IMU), which is responsible for ensuring the quality and classification of reported crime records before allocating them for investigation, all operate a feedback process to bring incorrect crime-recording decisions to the attention of the relevant officer or staff member. Each local policing area has a single point of contact, usually a detective chief inspector, who ensures that appropriate action is taken. We found this to be a good and effective process. The constabulary is also developing specific training for all officers and staff using the common failures to develop the training content.

We also found that officers and staff were having difficulty communicating with victims whose use of English was limited. A Language Line facility is available, and easy to use, but on occasions officers and staff did not use it. This provides a poor service to those victims as the constabulary cannot be sure that it has a full understanding of what has taken place and what risks and vulnerabilities may exist for those victims.

We note, in concluding this section, that prior to being notified of our inspection the constabulary’s crime data integrity working group (CDIWG), recognising some of the gaps in crime-recording arrangements, had been proactive in introducing the CDIRT and point of contact recording for the majority of reported crimes. These are welcome developments.

Violence against the person

80.0% of reported violent crimes 
were recorded

Over 2,900 reports of violent crime a year are not recorded

We found that 80.0 percent of violent crimes reported to the constabulary are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.15 percent). This is lower than the overall crime recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 2,900 violent crimes that are reported to it each year. As violent crime can be particularly distressing for the victim this is an area in which the need for better recording of reported crime is acute and is therefore an area for particular attention by the CDIRT.

In the majority of cases, where violent crimes were not recorded, we found the principal causes to be:

  • the processes for the recording of a reported crime (described earlier);
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules;
  • the use of the diary appointment system, and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Victims of violent crime, and in particular victims of more serious violence, often require substantial support. This support should come not only from the police but from other appropriate agencies, such as Victim Support. In those circumstances, crime-recording takes on a heightened importance. Failing to properly record a violent crime can result in victim support agencies receiving no notification that a person has become a victim of violent crime. That, in turn, deprives victims of the support they need and deserve.

We found that internal audits completed by the constabulary have shown improvements in the accuracy of recording of violent crime since the CDIRT and point of contact recording of reported crime were introduced. These improvements are to be welcomed. The constabulary should continue to monitor and assess the effectiveness of these arrangements.

We also found that the constabulary had identified areas for improvement for the recording by officers and staff of reports of harassment. The constabulary had responded to these by changing the recording processes for such offences and by providing officers and staff with relevant training to improve crime-recording standards.

Sexual offences

91.1% of reported sex offences 
were recorded

Over 130 reports of sex offence crime a year are not recorded

The constabulary’s recording of reports of sexual offences (other than rape) could be better. We found that the constabulary records 91.1 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.92 percent). We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 130 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

Those failings are significant given the very serious nature of sexual offences and the harm that they cause to their victims. We found that the constabulary had failed to record reports of sexual offences against both adults and children. These include offences of inciting children to engage in sexual activity.

The causes of that under-recording are similar to those identified above in respect of violent crime. These are:

  • the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime;
  • a lack of adequate knowledge surrounding the crime-recording rules by officers and staff; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Rape

74 of 76 audited rape reports were accurately recorded

Rape is one of the most serious sexual offence crimes a victim can experience. Therefore, the accurate recording of such reports is especially important. It helps to ensure the victim receives the service they have a right to expect and deserve, and it allows the police to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area. In turn, this enables the police to operate with the highest practicable levels of efficiency to identify and deal effectively with perpetrators.

The force control room and PSC are responsible for ensuring rape crimes are recorded at the point of report and we found that the force performed well in this regard.

We found 76 reports of rape that should have been recorded, and 74 had been recorded. These include reports that originated from the constabulary incident system, from investigations relating to modern slavery, from third party reports (for example, those reports received from health professionals) and from investigations involving vulnerable victims conducted by specialist officers dealing with adult protection, child protection and domestic abuse.

Of the two crimes that were missed one was an investigation involving two offenders. The constabulary had failed to record a crime in respect of the second offender. This was a misunderstanding of the crime-recording rules and the victim was being provided with a good service. The second missed crime was where the victim was reporting another offence and mentioned that she had been raped previously by her partner. The constabulary deemed that this was suitable for a diary appointment but due to problems this appointment never materialised. This was an inappropriate use of the diary appointment system; the constabulary should have recorded the crime at the outset and deployed a suitably experienced resource.

However, there are some issues surrounding the constabulary’s use of the Home Office classification N100. Introduced in April 2015, the N100 classification is a record created to describe why reported incidents of rape or attempted rapes, whether from victims, witnesses or third parties, have not been immediately recorded as a confirmed crime. This can include where additional information confirms the rape did not occur, or where the rape occurred in another force area and was therefore transferred to the relevant constabulary to record and investigate.

The constabulary operates a system whereby staff in the force control room or PSC apply classification N100s in the majority of cases. Specialist officers may also apply the classification where allegations are received through partner organisations.

We found 17 incident reports for which the constabulary should have applied an N100 classification. However, it was only applied on ten occasions. While no reported offences of rape had gone unrecorded as a result of the seven missing N100 classifications, it is important that the constabulary ensures that the N100 classification is understood and applied on all relevant occasions.

Separately we also reviewed 20 sample records where an N100 classification had been used. All were of a good standard and correctly recorded.

How efficiently do the systems and processes in the force support accurate crime recording?

graded good

Crime reports held on other systems

25 of 29 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

In order to be confident that vulnerable victims always receive the support they need, the constabulary must improve its recording of crimes reported directly to its public protection teams.

We examined 52 records on the constabulary vulnerable victim recording system (called CATS). This included domestic abuse and child protection reports. We found that 24 crimes should have been recorded and 23 were recorded. This is a good outcome.

The constabulary also operates an email system whereby officers and partner organisations can report crime allegations into the multi-agency safeguarding hub; these are assessed by a triage officer on a daily basis. We examined ten of these records and found that only two out of five crimes disclosed were recorded. The missed crime reports included two reports by teachers that pupils had been assaulted by family members and one where a fourteen-year-old girl was pregnant where a crime of sexual activity should have been recorded. When notified of our findings the constabulary took immediate action to address this concern. We welcome this response.

We also found that the constabulary has good processes for recording crime allegations disclosed by other organisations during multi-agency meetings. For example, those reported during multi-agency risk assessment conferences in respect of domestic abuse matters.

Modern slavery

Offences relating to modern slavery are an important and recent addition to the crimes that forces must record and investigate. We therefore reviewed the recording of reports of modern slavery offences. We also examined the constabulary’s understanding of the origin of such reports.

We examined 11 recorded crimes of modern slavery. In these, we found that the constabulary should have recorded 15 crimes of various types, and had recorded 13. All 11 modern slavery crimes were correctly recorded. Although one minor assault and an offence of threats to kill were missed, we found that the victims were still being safeguarded and supported.

We were unable to identify potential modern slavery incidents from the incident recording system. However, the constabulary has since developed a method which allows all such offences to be identified. This will assist the constabulary in developing a clearer understanding of the extent of modern slavery within Cambridgeshire.

The constabulary has an identified lead who works at constabulary, regional, national and international levels with other forces, partner organisations and overseas police organisations. Modern slavery is understood by officers at a local level. We were provided with details of effective operations which had been conducted by the constabulary.

The constabulary also has a specialist victim support officer responsible for providing support to victims of modern slavery. This role is fully integrated into the victim hub (see below). This is good practice.

Timeliness

The HOCR require that reports of crime are recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report. We found that, of the reports of crime that had been recorded by Cambridgeshire Constabulary, only 64 out of 72 reports of rape, 393 out of 473 reports of violent crime and 199 out of 236 sexual offences (excluding rape) had been recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report.

While some victims may be referred to support agencies by other means, the delay in recording a reported crime also delays the referral of the victim to the victim hub. As some victims would benefit from the early support this team can provide, these delays are unacceptable.

Cancelled crimes

Where additional verifiable information (AVI) is obtained to show that a recorded crime did not occur, the crime record can be cancelled. In this respect, we found that the constabulary’s performance was good.

The constabulary operates a system whereby only the FCIR and her staff can cancel recorded crimes and this is a good and effective process.

We reviewed a sample of cancelled recorded crimes of rape, other sexual offences, violence and robbery. We found that the FCIR and her staff had authorised correctly the cancellation of 20 out of 20 offences of rape, 19 out of 20 sexual offences, 18 out of 20 violence offences and 19 out of 20 robbery offences.

Frontline staff have a good knowledge of AVI and are confident to submit cancellation requests. They also have a clear understanding of the process for doing so.

Where a crime has been cancelled a victim should always know the status of his or her reported crime. In the case of a decision to cancel a recorded crime, the very least the victim should expect is an explanation of the reason for this decision. We found that the constabulary had informed victims of this decision on nearly every occasion. This is good and demonstrates appropriate consideration of victims’ needs.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Document) provides clear guidance to police forces regarding the service that should be provided to the victims of crime. We have concluded that the constabulary is aware of its responsibilities under this code. In particular, we found that the constabulary, after it records a crime, sends victims a standard letter which provides them with information about the offence to which they have been subject.

The constabulary has a victim hub which is funded by the police and crime commissioner. While some victims can refer themselves to the hub the majority of referrals come when a crime is recorded on the constabulary’s crime system. An initial victim needs assessment is conducted by the person recording the crime and this is provided to the victim hub. A second detailed victim needs assessment is conducted by staff within the hub, and those who require more support receive this. We found this to be a good process which considers victim needs effectively .

We also found that staff are aware of their responsibilities under the code. We found many examples of the constabulary providing a good and on occasions an enhanced service to support victims of crime.

Equality

HMIC found that the constabulary must improve its collection of information regarding the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities.

Protected characteristics, such as gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, religion and age do not necessarily increase the vulnerability of an individual to the risk of crime. However, it is important that the constabulary records information regarding the characteristics of victims of crime in order that it may identify any patterns which may exist between different community groups and their vulnerability to (or their relative likelihood to report) different types of crime.

We found that equality information is collected for the purpose of hate crime investigations; in all other cases only basic equality information is obtained. Importantly, so long as the constabulary fails to record such information on every occasion, it will be unable to understand clearly whether its crime-recording decisions are consistent across different community groups. This, therefore, is an area for improvement.

Officer and staff survey

We conducted a survey of officers and staff in Cambridgeshire Constabulary of their experience in respect of crime-recording. Some 262 respondents completed the survey. We were pleased to find that the vast majority of respondents reported that the constabulary’s approach in respect of crime-recording had improved or significantly improved since our 2014 inspection. Furthermore, staff were clear that they no longer felt under any pressure to minimise the number of crimes recorded on the basis of performance targets.

How well does the force demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?

graded outstanding

The culture and leadership with regard to crime-recording in the constabulary is outstanding.

Senior officers demonstrate strong leadership with regard to crime-recording expectations. Without exception, we found an approach among officers and staff which places the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions.

We also found evidence of strong governance, with crime data integrity forming part of the constabulary register of risks. This has led to the development of a comprehensive action plan which the CDIWG manages. The FCIR regularly attends force performance meetings and the agenda contains a section to discuss crime-recording performance.

The constabulary has made good progress with implementing changes recommended in our 2014 report, and as a result all of these recommendations have been completed. The constabulary has also made good progress against the national action plan, developed by the national lead on crime statistics following our 2014 report and which all forces have been asked to implement.

Conclusion

Cambridgeshire Constabulary has made progress in its crime-recording processes since 2014. However, improvements must continue to be made.

The strong leadership and positive approach among officers and staff toward victims is welcome. However, the constabulary needs to improve the crime-recording process and ensure that its staff and officers fully understand the crime-recording standards expected of them, and that these standards are supervised effectively.

What next?

We note that following our audit the chief officer lead for crime-recording took immediate steps to ensure the crime-recording failures we had identified were corrected, and also commenced work to identify how further improvements to the crime-recording arrangements could be made. We welcome this and will continue to monitor progress.

The constabulary, as with all police forces, may be subject to a further unannounced crime data integrity inspection at any time.