Cleveland Police: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2018

Overall judgment

graded inadequate

Cleveland Police has made efforts to improve crime-recording accuracy since HMICFRS’s 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report. Importantly, most officers and staff have made progress in placing the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions. We found that the force:

  • achieves good levels of recording accuracy for reported sexual offences, including rape crimes;
  • is good at recording crimes of modern slavery;
  • is good at recording crimes reported directly to its Protecting Vulnerable People teams;
  • has improved its processes for cancelling crimes, leading to good performance in this area;
  • has implemented most of the recommendations set out in our 2014 report; and
  • has made good progress against a national action plan developed to improve crime-recording by police forces.

Much work remains to be done, however. Despite advances, based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 May 2017 to 31 October 2017, we estimate that the force fails to record over 10,800 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 83.4 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.86 percent). The 16.6 percent of reported crimes that went unrecorded included serious crimes such as violent crimes and domestic abuse crimes. The recording rate for violent crime is of concern at 81.1 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.9 percent). Improvements must be made in these areas.

We consider that, too often, incorrect crime-recording decisions are made. Some staff and officers have an insufficient understanding of the crime-recording requirements, compounded by limited supervision to correct decisions at the earliest opportunity.

Summary of inspection findings

The force has made some improvements in its crime-recording arrangements since our 2014 report. In particular, we found that the force has:

  • improved its crime audit function;
  • introduced an incident and crime management team (ICMT);
  • reduced the number of dedicated decision makers (DDMs) to one thus providing consistency to crime cancellation decisions;
  • implemented most of the recommendations set out in our 2014 report; and
  • made good progress against the action plan, developed by the national policing lead on crime statistics following the 2014 report, and which all forces have been asked to implement. These include improvements to the force’s use of out-of-court disposals and to the level of its audit of crime-recording decisions.

We also found that the force crime registrar (FCR) – responsible for oversight of crime-recording arrangements – has completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and is now fully accredited for the role. His work is supported by a small team of Quality Assurance and Audit Officers who are empowered to make decisions on his behalf.

Despite these advances, the force’s compliance with national crime recording standards is unacceptable in the following areas:

  • The force is currently under-recording violent crimes.
  • The process for identifying domestic violence incidents as crimes and assessing the correct closure of such incidents within the force control room does not support accurate crime recording.
  • The force is not recording crimes within the 24-hours permitted.
  • The force must improve the extent to which it collects information regarding the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities. In particular, groups with identifiable protected characteristics (e.g. gender, sexuality or ethnicity).

Those failings are a consequence of officers and staff not always understanding their responsibilities for crime recording, compounded by deficiencies in the processes for crime recording within the force and inconsistent and limited supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Cause of concern

In Cleveland Police, officers and staff too often fail to make correct crime-recording decisions at the first opportunity when dealing with reports of violent crime, especially in cases of domestic abuse. This is due to deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes, insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements, and limited supervision to correct the decisions of officers and staff and improve standards from the outset. This means that the force is letting down too many victims of crime.

Recommendations

Within three months, the force should take steps to identify and address gaps in its systems and processes within its control room for identifying and recording all reports of crime. This work should include a review of:

  • the process for the supervision of the closure of incident records, ensuring that this includes a check of compliance with the crime-recording rules and that sufficient supervisory knowledge and capacity exists to do so;
  • the grading process for incidents; and
  • the procedure for arranging and managing appointments.

Within six months the force should put in place arrangements to ensure that:

  • at the point of report, for the purpose of crime recording, greater emphasis is placed on the initial account of victims and that victims are believed following a deployment; and
  • conversations between call handlers and callers are summarised accurately in the incident log and fully communicated to attending officers, thus providing them with full facts on which to base crime-recording decisions.

Within six months, the force should design and provide training for relevant staff in regard to:

  • the importance of the first account of the victim when making crime-recording decisions, particularly in cases of domestic abuse;
  • offences involving malicious communications, harassment and public order;
  • recording as full an account as possible from callers within the incident record and making it clear when the incident amounts to a crime; and
  • fully communicating all available information to officers deployed to incidents.

Areas for improvement

The force should immediately 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 inadequate

Overall crime-recording rate

83.4% of reported crimes 
were recorded

Over 10,800 reports of crime a year 
are not recorded

The force has considerable 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 force received, and for which an auditable record was created. The force informed HMICFRS that 99.8 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime-reporting route. This does not mean that 99.8 percent of crimes reported to Cleveland Police come through these routes but that 99.8 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 83.4 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.86 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 10,800 reports of crime each year. Those failings are depriving many victims of the services to which they are entitled.

Of a total of 1,580 reports of crime that we audited, we found 420 that we assessed to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these 420 crimes, the force had recorded 317. The 103 offences not recorded included 75 violent crimes and 28 other crimes.

We found that many of these reports involved the reporting of a crime at the first point of contact with the force, but these crime reports were often recorded as a non-crime incident with little rationale to explain why. 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.

Of further concern, we found that the absence of a crime record resulted in fewer than a quarter of these reports of crime being investigated, and that only around a quarter of victims received adequate safeguarding, thereby increasing the potential risk of harm to the victim.

The under-recording of crimes related to domestic incidents, and the failure to provide a satisfactory service to these victims are serious concerns. This is because domestic abuse often involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to further offences being committed against them.

Factors contributing to the force’s under-recording of crime reports are its crime-recording and incident management processes, the crime-recording knowledge of its workforce and the capacity for supervision of crime-recording decisions.

  • Deficiencies in the crime-recording and incident management processes need to be addressed. In particular, we found that:
    • following a risk assessment by call-handlers, some incidents can be graded P1 – which should provide a deployment within one hour – or P2 – which leads to an appointment. We found that the one-hour target and appointments can be missed and that, consequently, some incidents can become protracted. In these circumstances the victim can disengage or the initial reason for the call to the force can be diluted or lost;
    • there is no consistent process to ensure the recording of a crime before any appointment;
    • call handlers do not always record on the incident log full details of the conversation they have had with the person reporting a crime and where they do record this information it is not always passed on to officers attending the crime. This means the attending officer does not always have the full information on which to base a crime-recording decision;
    • following a deployment officers and staff do not always record a good or valid explanation for why a crime should not be recorded;
    • some attending officers sometimes lack empathy with the victims of domestic abuse and fail to understand the seriousness of some incidents.
  • We found that call-handlers, dispatchers, incident closure officers and frontline officers are not always sure of crime-recording requirements. In particular:
    • basic crime-recording principles and knowledge of the crime-recording rules relating to harassment, malicious communications and public order are not always understood; and
    • there is a lack of experience and knowledge of the crime-recording rules among some recently recruited staff responsible for call-handling.
  • A further problem relates to the force’s supervision of its crime-recording decisions. The force relies upon either dispatchers or closure officers to assess all incidents before closure. These staff sometimes lack the capacity during busy periods to fully assess all incidents for crime-recording compliance. Furthermore, closure officers have not received any formal training to equip them for this role.

Violence against the person

81.1% of reported violent crimes 
were recorded

Over 3,100 reports of violent crime a year 
are not recorded

We found that 81.1 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.9 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 3,100 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 improvement is particularly acute.

The majority of violent crimes not recorded were found to be common assaults, malicious communications and harassments, and the principal causes were:

  • the processes currently in place for the recording of a reported crime (described earlier);
  • officers and staff not fully understanding the crime-recording rules, particularly for some violence offences such as harassment and malicious communications. This results in the failure to record many such reports of crime; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions in the control room.

Victims of violent crime, particularly victims of more serious violence, often require substantial support. This support should come not only from the reporting and investigating officers, but from other appropriate agencies, such as Victim Support. Under those circumstances, crime recording takes on a heightened importance. Failing to record properly a violent crime can result in Victim Support 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.

Sexual offences

92.5% of reported sex offences 
were recorded

Over 120 reports of sex offences a year 
are not recorded

We found that the force records 92.5 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.83 percent). We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 120 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

This recording rate is good but the force can do better. This is particularly important in respect of sexual offence crimes, many of which are very serious in nature and cause significant harm to their victims. The force failed to record a small number of reported offences including sexual assault and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity over social media.

We found that the force has effective processes and good oversight which helps to ensure reports of sexual offences that are received directly into the call centre are recorded as crimes. This is because only one incident code can be applied in the case of reports of sexual offences. Additionally, the force quality assures all sexual incidents daily thus providing reassurance that crimes of this nature are being accurately recorded. This is good practice.

Rape

87 of 93 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 allows the force to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area. In turn, this enables the force to operate with the highest practicable levels of efficiency to identify and deal effectively with perpetrators.

In Cleveland Police we found that 87 of 93 rape crimes had been recorded as a crime. Importantly, all of the 4 victims involved in the 6 unrecorded rape crimes were receiving a good service from the force. We found that, although a crime may not always have been correctly recorded, Cleveland Police provided support and safeguarding to all four of these victims, including referrals to partner organisations when appropriate, and carried out an investigation in all.

The effectiveness of the oversight of reports of sexual offences means that the force’s performance in respect of the recording of reports of rape is good.

We also found that the force’s use of the Home Office classification N100 is good. Introduced in April 2015, the N100 is a record created to explain 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 instances 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 force to record and investigate.

We found 10 reports for which the force should have applied an N100 classification. It was applied on 8 of these occasions.

Separately, we also reviewed 19 sample records where an N100 classification had been used. All were correctly classified.

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

graded good

Crime reports held on other systems

72 of 76 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

In order to be confident that vulnerable victims always receive the support they need, it is important that crimes reported directly to the force’s public protection teams are always recorded. We were pleased to find that the force works hard to ensure that this is the case.

In Cleveland Police we examined 20 child and 20 adult protection crimes. We established that 46 crimes should have been recorded and that all were correctly recorded. We also examined 30 email referrals from partners, 15 for adults and 15 for children. We found that 30 crimes should have been recorded and that 26 were recorded. This is good and we were pleased to find that all but one of these victims received a good service from Cleveland Police with adequate safeguarding and an appropriate investigation. The 4 missed crimes were assault occasioning actual bodily harm, two common assaults and a public order crime.

The recording of these reports of crime is important as it allows the force to identify and understand the nature and extent of crime experienced by vulnerable adults and children, and to ensure it has adequate resources in place to protect these victims from harm.

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 force’s understanding of the origin of such reports.

We consider that the force has strong crime-recording arrangements in respect of modern slavery crime. Our audit examined 9 modern slavery crimes. We found that there was some over-recording of modern slavery crimes but that no crimes were missed. We also looked at 17 modern slavery referrals to the force and found that all modern slavery crimes were recorded and just one crime of ABH missed.

The force has an identified lead for modern slavery who works at force, regional and national levels with other forces and partner agencies. Modern slavery is understood by officers at a local level.

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 Cleveland Police, 250 out of 533 reports of violent crime, 116 out of 222 sexual offences and 349 out of 484 other offences had been recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report.

Although some victims may be referred to support agencies in other ways, the delay in recording a reported crime also delays the referral of the victim to Victim Support. As some victims would benefit from the early support this service can provide, these delays are unacceptable.

We found that these delays can be attributed to:

  • failure to always record a reported crime at the first opportunity, sometimes delaying this until after an appointment with the victim;
  • occasional unacceptable delays in deploying officers to incidents;
  • call handlers incorrectly classifying reports of crime as non-crime incidents;
  • connectivity problems for the tablet devices officers use to record crimes; and
  • some officers submitting paper crime-records which can be subject to input delays.

We note that the force is aware of the connectivity problems, and is changing these devices.

Cancelled crimes

Where additional verifiable information (AVI) is obtained to show that a recorded crime did not occur, the crime record can be cancelled.

The force operates a system whereby only the FCR and one dedicated decision maker (DDM) can cancel recorded crimes and we found these arrangements to be effective.

We reviewed a sample of cancelled recorded crimes of rape, other sexual offences, violence and robbery. We found that the FCR and his staff had authorised correctly the cancellation of 20 out of 20 offences of rape, 17 out of 19 sexual offences, 20 out of 22 violence offences and all robbery offences. This is good.

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 force had informed victims of this decision on almost all occasions. Again, 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 forces regarding the service that should be provided to the victims of crime. We have concluded that the force is aware of its responsibilities under this code. In particular, we found that the force, after it records a crime, contacts all victims either by phone or letter or text message providing them with information about the offence to which they have been subject.

The force uses Victim Support to provide care to victims of crime. While some victims can refer themselves to this service, the majority of referrals come when a crime is recorded on the force’s crime system. An initial victim needs assessment is conducted by the reporting officer. A second detailed victim needs assessment is conducted by staff within Victim Support, 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.

Equality

HMICFRS found that the force must improve in its collection of information regarding crimes affecting 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 force records information regarding the characteristics of victims of crime in order to identify any patterns which may exist between different community groups and their vulnerability to (or their relative likelihood to report) different types of crime.

Importantly, so long as the force fails to record such information, 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. However, the force is aware of this problem and is working with other forces which use Niche (its crime-recording system) to make changes to the system which will make the recording of such information easier.

Officer and staff survey

We conducted a survey of officers and staff in Cleveland Police of their experience in respect of crime-recording. Some 229 respondents completed the survey. We were pleased to find that the vast majority of respondents believe that doing the right thing for the victim is the aim of the force, and that senior managers have reinforced this. Respondents also reported that the force’s approach to 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. However, some staff felt that the force was now recording too many unnecessary crimes.

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

graded good

The culture and leadership with regard to crime-recording in the force is good.

Senior officers demonstrate strong leadership with regard to crime-recording expectations. We found an approach among most officers and staff which places the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions.

We also found evidence of strong governance in respect of crime-recording. The FCR regularly attends force-level performance meetings at which crime-recording is discussed, one of which the deputy chief constable chairs.

The force has made good progress with implementing changes recommended in our 2014 report, and as a result most of these recommendations have been completed.

The force 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. The force has effective and sufficient audit arrangements and this is a good example of how the force is working to ensure it improves its crime-recording standards.

Conclusion

Cleveland Police has made some progress in its crime-recording processes since 2014. However, improvements must continue to be made. This is particularly necessary in regard to the recording accuracy for victims of violent crime and victims of domestic abuse crime.

The strong leadership and positive approach among officers and staff toward victims of crime is welcome, and some of the systems and processes used to ensure good crime-recording decisions are taken are to be commended. However, more needs to be done if the gaps in the force’s crime-recording arrangements identified in this inspection are to be overcome.

HMICFRS welcomes the continuing efforts of the force to address the remaining gaps in the crime-recording arrangements identified in this inspection.

What next?

HMICFRS expects the force to make progress implementing recommendations we make in this report.

The cause of concern found during this inspection is such that HMICFRS may revisit the force later in this inspection programme to assess its progress.