Cumbria Constabulary - Crime Data Integrity inspection 2019

Overall judgment

graded outstanding

Cumbria Constabulary is one of only two forces, from the 34 inspected so far in this programme of inspection, that have been judged as achieving an outstanding performance on our first visit.

Since our 2014 inspection, the force has made substantial progress to record crime more accurately. Chief officers are at the forefront of the force’s improvements and victims are at the heart of its crime-recording arrangements.

We found:

  • the force recorded all rape offences reported to it;
  • officers and staff understand the importance of crime recording;
  • a comprehensive training programme for officers and staff;
  • effective processes for identifying and recording crimes related to modern slavery;
  • robust crime-recording governance and performance management arrangements; and
  • an effective feedback process so officers and staff who make errors can learn the correct requirements for their future crime-recording decisions.

We examined crime reports from 1 June 2018 to 20 November 2018. Based on this, we estimate that the force records 93.4 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.48 percent) of crimes reported to it. We estimate that the force fails to record over 2,400 reported crimes each year.

The force is determined to get crime recording right, to understand clearly how crime affects its communities and to respond appropriately to this demand.

However, in a few areas the force acknowledges that it still has more work to do. It recognises that it still does not always make the correct crime-recording decisions and that it must work to:

  • make sure it records all crimes disclosed within an incident;
  • make sure officers record a proper explanation of why they don’t record a reported crime; and
  • improve officer and staff understanding of the Home Office N100 classification.

Summary of findings

The force has improved its crime-recording accuracy since our 2014 report. We found it has:

  • created a culture in which officers and staff fully understand the importance of crime recording;
  • a crime management support unit (CMSU) which quality assures, audits, classifies and cancels recorded crime, and provides authoritative advice and guidance;
  • provided comprehensive training which has improved officer and staff understanding of crime-recording requirements;
  • effective supervisory oversight, including feedback processes which support its commitment to continual improvement;
  • strong governance arrangements to make sure that it maintains the improvements made to its crime-recording accuracy;
  • completed all recommendations from our 2014 report; and
  • completed all recommendations from the national action plan developed in 2014 to improve crime recording by police forces.

The force crime registrar (FCR) and her deputy are responsible for oversight and audit of crime-recording requirements. We found that they have completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and are fully accredited for the role. The CMSU supports them and undertakes regular audits of reported and recorded crime.

Despite these advances, the force’s crime recording needs to improve in the following areas:

  • call handlers don’t always record on the incident log details of all crimes disclosed by the person making a report, so attending officers don’t always have the full information to make crime-recording decisions;
  • officers don’t always record a proper explanation for why they didn’t record a crime;
  • the force doesn’t always record all crimes reported in incidents involving more than one crime; and
  • officers and staff don’t always understand or use the Home Office classification N100 for rape reports which don’t require a crime record.

Areas for improvement

The force should immediately:

  • make sure that call handlers always record on the incident log details of all crimes disclosed by the person reporting a crime, so that attending officers always have the full information to make their crime-recording decisions;
  • improve officer and staff understanding of the recording requirements for rape reports received from professional third parties; and
  • improve its understanding and use of the N100 classification for those reports of rape which it doesn’t record as a crime.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded outstanding

Overall crime-recording rate

93.4% of reported crimes were recorded

The force has made good progress with its processes, ensuring it now records more 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 it had created an auditable record. The force told us that 100 percent of crime it records (excluding fraud) comes through an auditable route. This does not mean that 100 percent of crimes reported to Cumbria Constabulary come through these routes, but that 100 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 93.4 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.48 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording more than 2,400 reports of crime each year.

We found the supervision and oversight of crime-recording decisions was effective. A feedback process to officers and staff supports this and ensures continuous learning.
In most cases where the force still doesn’t record crimes, we found this was because:

  • officers and staff don’t always record a proper explanation of why they didn’t record a reported crime;
  • it doesn’t always record all crimes reported in incidents involving more than one crime; and
  • officers sometimes wrongly believe they don’t need to record a crime if the victim suffers from mental ill-health.

Of the 1,071 reports of crime that we audited, we assessed 265 as related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 245. Many of the unrecorded crime reports were made at the first point of contact with the force, but they were not recorded. We found little rationale to explain why.

In five cases we found no record on the report of the force considering safeguarding requirements. And in 14 cases there was no investigation because the reported crimes weren’t recorded. The force is already working to close any such gaps in the future.

The high recording rate for domestic abuse incidents has contributed significantly to the force’s overall crime-recording results. This is a testament to its hard work and commitment to crime recording.

Violence against the person

92.7% of reported violent crimes were recorded

Over 1,000 reports of violent crime a year are not recorded

We found that 92.7 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.31 percent). By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 1,000 violent crimes that are reported to it each year.

This recording rate is good. It is indicative of the improved recording standards achieved by officers and staff and of the scrutiny given to reports of violence since our 2014 report. This is particularly important as many of these crimes are very serious in nature and cause significant harm to their victims.
In most cases where the force still doesn’t record violent crimes, we found this was because:

  • some frontline officers fail to identify and record violent crimes such as common assault, harassment and malicious communications;
  • some officers wrongly believe they don’t need to record a crime if the victim suffers from mental ill-health; and
  • the force doesn’t record all crimes reported in incidents involving more than one crime.

Victims of violent crime often need a lot of support. This should come from the force, and other appropriate agencies such as Victim Support. In these circumstances, crime recording is even more important. If the force fails to record a violent crime properly, it can mean victims aren’t referred to Victim Support. This deprives victims of the support they need and deserve.

Sexual offences

98.5% of reported sex offences were recorded

The force records 98.5 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.40 percent). This is an exceptional standard of crime-recording accuracy. We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 20 reported sexual offence crimes each year..

This recording rate shows the continued attention the force gives to recording sexual offences and should provide confidence to victims that their report will be taken seriously.

Rape

ALL audited rape reports were accurately recorded

Rape is one of the most serious crimes a victim can experience. So, it is especially important that reports of rape are recorded accurately. It helps to make sure victims receive the service and support they deserve. And it helps the police identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area.

Cumbria Constabulary recorded every rape report we audited. These included:

  • 62 reports from the force incident system;
  • five from N100s (see below); and
  • ten from reports of modern slavery.

Of 34 forces inspected so far during this programme, Cumbria Constabulary is only the third that has accurately recorded all rape offences reported to it. This is an excellent standard for which we commend the force.

We found that officers and staff understood well their crime-recording responsibilities about reports of rape crimes. The force has worked hard to achieve this and has effective systems in place to validate its crime-recording decisions.

However, the force needs to improve how it uses the Home Office classification N100. The N100 was introduced in April 2015. Its purpose is to explain why reported incidents of rape or attempted rape, whether they are reported by victims, witnesses or third parties, haven’t immediately been recorded as a confirmed crime. This can include instances where additional information confirms the rape didn’t take place, or where the rape took place in another force area and was transferred to the relevant force to record and investigate.

We found 33 incident reports for which the force should have applied an N100 classification. It did so on 27 occasions. Separately, we also reviewed 22 sample records where it had applied an N100 classification. It correctly turned five N100s into rape crimes, four were duplicate records and one was recorded unnecessarily. The remaining 12 N100s had been correctly recorded.

Some officers and staff don’t always understand or use the N100 classification. On occasions the force received rape reports for which the use of an N100 would have been appropriate, but this wasn’t done. And in several cases it applied an N100 incorrectly to reports of rape from a professional third party. The force later corrected these reports but should have recorded them as rape crimes from the outset. Therefore, this is an area for improvement.

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

graded good

Crime reports held on other systems

6 of 8 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

For vulnerable victims to get the support they need, the force must improve how it records crimes reported directly to its public protection teams.

We examined 50 vulnerable victim records. We found that the force should have recorded eight crimes, of which it had recorded six.

The two unrecorded crimes were one crime each of harassment and theft. Both cases involved adult victims who the force safeguarded. But its failure to record the crimes meant that neither of these cases was investigated.

The force has developed multi-agency safeguarding hubs that work in partnership with other organisations to support vulnerable children. It plans to expand these hubs in the future to also support vulnerable adults. We found that officers and staff working in these hubs clearly understood their crime-recording responsibilities. This included those reports of crime disclosed during meetings, case conferences and investigations. Additionally, the force gave training to staff from partner agencies to help them identify crimes that may need recording. This is good practice.

Modern slavery

Offences relating to modern slavery are an important and recent addition to the crimes that forces must record and investigate. So, we examined how well the force records reports of modern slavery offences. We also examined its understanding of the origin of such reports.

We found the force has effective processes in place to ensure it records such crimes. We examined 22 modern slavery records and found 45 crimes that should have been recorded. Just two of these hadn’t been recorded: one assault and one drugs-related crime. The force had also correctly recorded one N100 for a rape that occurred abroad.

We also looked at three modern slavery reports that the force received through the national referral mechanism. We found that it recorded all crimes reported in these records. These consisted of three modern slavery crimes, two rapes and one assault.

The force has worked hard to improve its workforce’s knowledge and understanding of modern slavery. Tactical advisors and trained specialists can provide additional support and advice for those dealing with modern slavery crimes. And the force has made a concerted effort to make sure officers and staff understand the features of modern slavery. This allows for early identification of these crimes and good crime-recording standards.

Timeliness

If the information the force gets at the first point of contact satisfies the national crime recording standard, it should record crimes straight away, and in any case within 24 hours.

We found that of the reports Cumbria Constabulary had recorded, it had recorded the following number within 24 hours of receiving the report:

  • 377 out of 420 violent crimes;
  • 172 out of 201 sexual offences; and
  • 318 out of 334 other offences.

Generally, when the force makes correct crime-recording decisions, its processes work well to make sure it records the crime within 24 hours as the rules require. But it could improve how quickly it records sexual offences.

Cancelled crimes

If additional verifiable information shows that a recorded crime didn’t take place, the record can be cancelled. A recorded crime can also be cancelled when it was committed in another force area and is subsequently transferred. In this respect the force performs well.

We reviewed a sample of cancelled recorded crimes of rape, other sexual offences, violence and robbery.

We found that the FCR had correctly authorised 11 out of 11 cancelled offences of rape. Designated decision makers (DDMs) are responsible for other crime cancellation decisions. The DDMs had correctly authorised the cancellation of:

  • 17 out of 18 sexual offences;
  • 19 out of 19 violence offences; and
  • 3 out of 3 robbery offences.

If a crime has been cancelled or transferred to another force to investigate, victims should always know the status of their reported crime. If the force decides to cancel a recorded crime, the very least the victim should expect is an explanation of why it decided this. We found that of the 12 victims who should have been informed of the transfer or cancellation, 8 had been.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime gives police forces clear guidance about the service they should give crime victims. We have concluded the force is aware of its responsibilities under this code.

Crime victims in Cumbria can be referred to Victim Support. But the force also offers a broader range of services to victims via the ‘Cumbria Together’ website. The website aims to provide an information portal of services available for those affected by crime, regardless of whether the crime has been reported. So victims can choose support services from other organisations as well as those available through Victim Support. This is good practice.

Equality

We found that the force must improve the way it collects information about crimes affecting identifiable groups within communities.

Protected characteristics, such as gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, religion and age, don’t necessarily make someone more vulnerable to the risk of crime. However, it is important that the force records information about victims’ characteristics. This helps to identify any patterns between different community groups and how vulnerable they are to (or how likely they are to report) different types of crime.

We found that the force routinely captures information on age, gender and ethnicity, but not on disability or sexual orientation. It can only access this information from the crime record or audio recording of the call if the victim disclosed it. This may limit the force’s understanding of the extent to which crime is affecting these groups.

However, we were pleased to find the force uses the equality information it does collect to analyse how often it fails to record crime reports made by people with protected characteristics. This is done to make sure the force doesn’t make different crime-recording decisions based on protected characteristics. This is then overseen by the force’s independent advisory group.

Officer and staff survey

We carried out a survey of officers and staff in Cumbria Constabulary about their experience of crime recording. Disappointingly only 90 respondents took part. But we were pleased to find that the vast majority strongly believed the chief officer team clearly communicates the need for ethical crime recording. And the vast majority are aware of changes to the force’s crime-recording arrangements intended to improve accuracy.

Furthermore, most respondents confirmed that since our 2014 report was published, the force’s crime-recording culture had either improved or significantly improved. This is welcome.

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

graded outstanding

The leadership team in Cumbria Constabulary is clearly committed to good crime recording. The deputy chief constable (DCC), who leads on crime data integrity (CDI), was particularly visible in communicating the force’s commitment. This has helped to set a culture where officers and staff fully understand the importance of crime recording.

The force has used roadshows, briefings, videos, marketing campaigns, intranet messages and policy decisions to reinforce crime recording’s importance and how it improves the service to victims.

We found the governance arrangements for crime recording were well established and effective. These include a crime recording tasking group, chaired by the DCC. The group sanctions and oversees CDI work and is responsible for monitoring a crime recording action plan. This action plan has been central to the positive changes in the force’s crime-recording culture and practice.

The FCR and her deputy are fully supported by the chief officers. They are empowered to make the necessary decisions to maintain and further improve crime recording.

The force uses the HMICFRS crime recording audit methodology in a risk-based audit regime. The regime includes virtual real-time auditing and systematic quality assurance checks which give feedback to individuals and their line managers. This is welcome.

The force has implemented all the recommendations from our 2014 report, and from the national action plan the national lead on crime statistics developed following our report.

Conclusion

The force has made good progress in improving its crime-recording since our 2014 inspection.

The leadership has created a positive cultural change among officers and staff regarding the importance of crime recording. This has made sure that more victims receive the service they are entitled to and have access to support and safeguarding where required. We are confident that the force’s leadership and governance arrangements will enable it to address the remaining areas for improvement identified in this inspection.

What next?

We welcome the steps taken by Cumbria Constabulary to improve its crime-recording arrangements. We expect the force to continue to make progress and to build on its improvements made so far. We will monitor this progress.

As with all police forces, we may carry out another unannounced crime data integrity inspection of this force at any time.