Devon and Cornwall Police: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2016

Overall judgment

graded inadequate

Devon and Cornwall Police has made limited improvements to its crime-recording arrangements since HMIC’s 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report. We found that:

  • the majority of officers and staff have made progress in placing the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions;
  • the force has worked hard in bringing about improvements in the knowledge and understanding of crime-recording requirements among officers and staff within its public protection teams; and
  • it is introducing mobile devices for all frontline officers to enable more prompt recording of crimes.

Much work remains to be done, however. The force has completed fewer than half of the recommendations for improvement made in our 2014 report and the limited progress in this respect is seriously undermining the efficiency and effectiveness of its crime-recording arrangements.

Based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 December 2015 to 31 May 2016, we estimate that the force fails to record over 17,400 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 81.52 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.72 percent). The 18.48 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include serious crimes such as sexual offences and rape. The recording rate for violent crime is a particular cause of concern at only 76.10 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.21 percent). This means that on too many occasions, the force is failing victims of crime.

Improvements must be made in many areas. In particular, we consider that there are too many failures to make the correct crime-recording decision at the first opportunity. These failures are often due to poor crime-recording processes and 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 force has made limited progress with its crime-recording arrangements since our 2014 report. We found that:

  • improvements have been made to the knowledge and understanding of crime-recording requirements among officers and staff within the force’s public protection teams;
  • the force has also made some 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. This includes improvements to the force’s use of out-of-court disposals (e.g cautions and community resolutions); and
  • 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 audit team.

Despite these advances, the force’s performance in respect of crime-recording is unacceptable in the following areas:

  • The force is currently under-recording too many reports of crime, including:
    • violent crimes;
    • reports of rape; and
    • other sexual offences.

    The force needs to act promptly to improve the accuracy of its recording of these reports and to provide all victims with the service to which they are entitled and deserve.

  • The force has made unsatisfactory progress with implementing changes recommended in the 2014 report and, as a result, has only completed some of these recommendations.
  • Reports of crime reported directly to public protection teams are not always being recorded.
  • The FCR provides information to local policing areas on crime-recording performance, including individual feedback for officers and staff. However, not all local policing areas are providing this feedback to their officers and staff, nor is there any process to ensure that feedback is given.
  • Delays to the recording of a reported crime are leading to delays in the referral of victims to the force’s in-house victim care unit, letting down those victims who need the early support this team can provide.
  • The force must improve the extent to which it collects information regarding the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities.

Some of these failings are a consequence of the force not taking sufficient action to deal with deficiencies identified within our 2014 report, in particular officers and staff not understanding their responsibilities for crime-recording. They are, in addition, underpinned by limited supervision from the force to support officers and staff in making good and prompt crime-recording decisions, and in working with complex crime-recording processes that are applied inconsistently in different areas of the force.

Cause of concern

In Devon and Cornwall Police there is a systemic failure of officers and staff to make correct crime-recording decisions at the first opportunity. 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 failing many victims of crime.

The force is failing to ensure it adequately records all reports of rape, sexual offences and violence, including domestic abuse, and, on most occasions, is incorrectly using classification N100.

Recommendations

  • Immediately, the force should take steps to identify and address gaps in its systems and processes for identifying and recording all reports of crime which are domestic abuse related.
  • Immediately, sexual offence liaison officers should be assigned to all victims of serious sexual assaults and, in particular, to rape victims and, wherever possible, these officers should be deployed as the first responder.
  • Within three months, the force should review the operating arrangements of its call management and communication units, including the use of appointments, and ensure that these arrangements secure the recording of all reported crimes at the first point of report that sufficient information exists to do so, and in any event within 24 hours of receipt of the report.
  • Within three months, the force should develop and implement procedures for the effective supervision of crime-recording decisions throughout the whole force.
  • Within six months the force should put in place arrangements to ensure that:
    • at the point of report, victims are believed;
    • conversations between call handlers and callers are summarised accurately in the incident log, thus providing attending officers with full facts on which to base crime-recording decisions;
    • multiple crimes are always recorded when described within incident records or identified as part of other recorded crime investigations;
    • the practice of awaiting the results of medical examinations or video interviews before making crime-recording decisions is stopped; and
    • online reports of crime are triaged at the point of receipt to ensure any ongoing risks to the victim or the wider public is identified and appropriately managed.
  • Within six months, the force should design and provide training for all staff who make crime-recording decisions. This should include training in regard to:
    • the extent of the information required to provide for a crime-recording decision to be made;
    • the expectation that reported crime is recorded at the first point that sufficient information exists to record a crime, which in the majority of cases will be at the point of report;
    • the proper use of classification N100 for reports of rape; and
    • the importance of believing the first account of the victim.

Areas for improvement

  • Within three months, the force should ensure sufficient audit capacity and capability is available to the FCR to provide reassurance that the force is identifying and managing any gaps in its crime-recording accuracy. This is particularly important for vulnerable victims and those crimes where the risk to the victim is greatest, such as rape, modern slavery and violence.
  • The force should immediately put in place arrangements for effective supervision of enquiries from third party referrals recorded on UNIFI (its crime-recording system) to ensure any reported crimes are recorded without delay.
  • 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.
  • The force should immediately review and update its approach to the recording of reports of modern slavery, to ensure that such reports are accessible and suitable for audit, and that all reported crime and incidents of this type are recorded on UNIFI.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded inadequate

Overall crime-recording rate

81.52% of reported crimes 
were recorded

Over 17,400 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 HMIC that 91.4 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime reporting route. This does not mean that 91.4 percent of crimes reported to Devon and Cornwall Police comes through these routes but that 91.4 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 81.52 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.72 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 17,400 reports of crime each year. Those failings are depriving many victims of the services to which they are entitled and are a cause of concern.

Of a total of 1,977 reports of crime that we audited, we found 391 that we assessed to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these 391 crimes, the force had recorded 240. The 151 offences not recorded included serious sexual offences, offences of violence and crimes against children and vulnerable adults.

Many of these were entered incorrectly as enquiries on the force crime-recording database, UNIFI, rather than being entered as crime records. We found that safeguarding requirements had not been recorded in well over half of these cases. This absence of safeguarding included a report of grievous bodily harm, several common assaults, malicious communications against a disabled vulnerable adult, and an offence involving threats with a knife. We also found that that the absence of a crime record means that very few of these reports were investigated, thereby increasing the potential risk of harm to the victim.

As domestic abuse often involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to further offences being committed against them, the importance of recording and investigating reported crimes of domestic abuse cannot be overstated.

Factors contributing to the force’s under-recording of crime reports are its crime-recording processes, the crime-recording knowledge of its workforce and the limited capacity of supervisors to provide effective oversight of crime-recording decisions.

Deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes are a cause of concern. In particular, we found that:

  • when there is no requirement for an officer to attend a reported incident, or when further offences come to light after the initial deployment or during subsequent investigation, the force does not always record reported crimes;
  • incident records that contain multiple reports often result in only one crime report being recorded;
  • where further crimes are identified they are often referred to within an existing crime record when, in fact, an additional crime record should be created;
  • the force call management and communications unit (CMCU) has a complex structure within which a number of different roles record reported crimes. This depends on whether the crime is recorded direct from the member of the public at the first point of contact or after an officer has been allocated to establish more detail. The CMCU is based in two locations, one in Exeter and one in Plymouth, but we found some disparity in the way that each operates. For example, both accommodate part of the force-wide demand reduction team, who are responsible for managing call-backs to certain callers reporting low-risk incidents suitable for resolution over the telephone, monitoring service levels on appointments and advising call handlers on more complex call types. The force is piloting the use of further desk-based resources in Plymouth to understand better the opportunities to improve the resolution of a range of lower level incidents over the telephone. This has lead to some confusion for officers and staff and inconsistency in crime-recording decisions;
  • call handlers do not always record full details of the conversation they have had with the person reporting a crime on the incident log. This means the attending officer does not always have the full information on which to base a crime-recording decision, and any supervision of that decision is undertaken without access to all of the information available; and
  • officers do not always make use of mobile devices for entering crime and safeguarding information, as they find the process inefficient. Instead, they choose to return to a police station to enter the information on a computer. In either case, crime-recording decisions are sent to a queue for a crime record to be created on UNIFI by other staff. We found that there is often a backlog to the creation of these crime records, leading to delays in the recording of reported crime and to the referral of victims to the in-house victim care unit.

The force has a system in place by which a report of a crime can be made by a member of the public online via its website. We found this to be an efficient means of receiving crime reports. However, we also found that the force does not always have the capacity to record these crimes within 24 hours, as required by the crime-recording rules. Additionally, there is no process in place to triage or complete an early risk assessment of these reports. On some occasions, despite force advice to the public regarding reporting serious crime via the 999 service, these reports are of a serious nature, meaning the potential exists for further harm to the victim, other members of the public and to the reputation of the force. These delays are therefore unacceptable.

We found that call handlers, frontline officers and staff working in police station enquiry offices are not always sure of crime-recording requirements. In particular:

  • basic crime recording principles and knowledge of crime-recording requirements relating to malicious communications and harassment are not always understood; and
  • at the point of reporting, a small number of staff, including uniformed sergeants and constables, as well as staff working in specialist teams investigating serious sexual offences, do not always believe the account of the victim, particularly where the victim has a mental health illness.

A further problem relates to the force’s supervision of its crime-recording decisions. We found supervision to be inconsistent and in particular:

  • where an officer is deployed to an incident, the responsibility for supervising crime-recording decisions rests with frontline supervisors. However, these supervisors do not have the capacity to scrutinise adequately all crime related incidents to satisfy themselves that crime-recording decisions are correct;
  • the force has a large number of constables carrying out the role of temporary sergeant. This inevitably results in a dilution of the knowledge and experience required to achieve accurate crime-recording across the whole force;
  • despite call-handling supervisors carrying out regular dip-sampling of call handlers’ work, this does not include a check of crime-recording decisions; and
  • the crime standards unit (CSU), part of whose role is to ensure the correct application of crime-recording rules to undetected crimes, have a backlog of 6,000 recorded crimes to assess and do not have the capacity to rigorously examine every one. The consistency of crime-recording decisions made by the CSU is further undermined because the force allows all sergeants and any constable who is, or who has previously held, temporary sergeant status, to approve the filing of any crime record.

These gaps are exacerbated by the FCR’s lack of capacity to carry out the full extent of his responsibilities for the regular audit of reported incidents and crime records. This includes no auditing whatsoever of modern slavery records or any regular audits of vulnerable adult and child protection databases within UNIFI. We found that the deputy FCR role had been vacant for 18 months. This lack of capacity prevents the FCR from having a clear understanding of the issues that may affect the integrity of crime-recording. We note that the FCR is currently training a number of staff who are supporting auditing arrangements in addition to their other tasks. However, the audit arrangements remain an area for improvement.

We also found that, of the reports of crime that had been recorded, only 101 out of 158 reports of rape, 204 out of 328 reports of violent crime and 149 out of 277 sexual offences (excluding rape) had been recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report, as required by the rules. 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 force’s in-house victim care unit. As some victims would benefit from the early support this team can provide, these delays are wholly unacceptable.

We found that these delays can be attributed to two primary factors:

  • the crime-recording input queue (described earlier); and
  • the failure to record a reported crime at the first opportunity, delaying this until either making an appointment to speak to the victim or following initial investigation, such as awaiting the results of a medical examination or a video interview with the victim.

The force has now introduced a system that requires reports of rape to be recorded as crimes at the first point of receipt. However, the force should satisfy itself that the delays described above, in particular the recording of reports of rape and other sexual offences, are not due to officers failing to believe victims’ first reports but rather due to choosing, instead, to investigate before recording the reported crime.

We note, in concluding this section, that the force is making changes to its crime recording IT system UNIFI. These changes will enable frontline staff to record crime directly through their mobile devices without needing other staff to then create a formal crime record. In addition, the force has recruited extra staff to provide greater capacity and resilience within its contact centre and is providing training to these and existing contact centre staff in the crime-recording rules. These are welcome developments.

Violence against the person

76.10% of reported violent crimes 
were recorded

Over 7,700 reports of violent crime 
a year are not recorded

We found that 76.10 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.21 percent). This is lower than the overall crime recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 7,700 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.

Many of these crimes involve injury, which can cause even further distress for the victim. We therefore find the recording of reports of violent crime by the force is a serious cause of concern.

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

  • the processes currently in place for the recording of a reported crime (described earlier);
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules, particularly around the complexities of some violence offences such as harassment. This results in the failure to record many such reports of crime; 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 reporting and investigating officers, but also, possibly, from the force’s internal victim care unit. Under those circumstances, crime-recording takes on a heightened importance. Failing to properly record a violent crime can result in the victim care unit 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

85.16% of reported sex offences 
were recorded

Over 470 reports of sex offence crime 
a year are not recorded

The force’s recording of reports of sexual offences (including rape), is a cause of concern. We found that the force records 85.16 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.51 percent). We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 470 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

Those failings are significant given the very serious nature of sexual offences and the harm they cause to their victims. We found, for example, that the force had failed to record reports of rape (see the next section), serious sexual assault against both adults and children, sexual activity with a child and incitement of children to commit a sexual act.

The causes of that under-recording are similar to those described earlier:

  • the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime;
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules;
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions; and
  • on occasion, a lack of belief in the account of the victim, where the victim does not wish to pursue any prosecution or where the victim is apparently suffering from a mental illness.

We found a further cause of this under-recording to be the deployment of officers and staff who do not possess the specialist skills and knowledge necessary to properly deal with these reports, to provide the right support to these victims (who are often vulnerable) or to make the correct crime-recording decision. We found that this is as a result of the force not having sufficient sexual offence liaison officers (SOLOs) to ensure that every victim of serious sexual assault receives the support these specialist staff members can provide.

Sexual offence victims require significant support from the outset. The failure to record such crimes, to provide appropriate support to the victim, or any delay in attendance or investigation will often result in a lack of confidence in the police and reluctance on behalf of the victim to engage in subsequent stages of the criminal justice system. The force must improve its performance in this respect.

Rape

158 of 185 audited rape reports were accurately recorded

We found 185 reports of rape that should have been recorded, but only 158 of these had been recorded. These include reports that originated on the force incident system, reports recorded directly on UNIFI by specialist officers, and from a review of N100 records (see below). This is a serious cause of concern.

These 27 missed rapes include referrals from professional third parties, reports which were part of multiple offences and reports from victims suffering from mental health problems or with alcohol or drug dependencies. In three cases the victim of the reported rape was a child, in five cases the reports were of historic rape, three victims were suffering from mental illness and one was an elderly female in care. However, it is clear that, although a crime may not have been recorded, in the majority of those cases Devon and Cornwall Police carried out an investigation and provided support and safeguarding, including referrals to partner agencies when appropriate. There were only two cases where there was an identified victim and Devon and Cornwall Police did not provide such support and in one of those cases the victim was already under the care of professionals providing safeguarding. The level and extent of the service provided in these cases falls short of acceptable standards.

As already described, reports of rape should involve the attendance of a sexual offence liaison officer to speak to the victim, yet we found that this is not always happening.

The causes of that under-recording are the same as were identified above in respect of sexual offences. These are:

  • the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime;
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules;
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions; and
  • on occasion, a lack of belief in the account of the victim, where mental health, alcohol or drugs were a factor or where the victim does not support a prosecution.

There are, in addition, some issues surrounding the force’s use of the Home Office classification N100. 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 the guidance provided by the force to officers and staff in respect of the use of classification N100 is wrong. For example, the guidance advises staff to record all reports of rape and, following investigation, request that the record be amended to classification N100 if it is established that a crime did not occur. This is incorrect; in fact, the classification N100 is only to be used in circumstances where a crime record is not created. Consequently, we found 18 incident reports for which an N100 classification should have been applied but it was only applied in 3. Of these 18, five related to crimes transferred to other police forces to investigate as the offences had occurred in their area, including four which had occurred overseas. The other nine related to unsubstantiated third party reports.

Separately, we also reviewed 20 sample records where an N100 classification had been used. Among these, we found six reports that the force should have recorded as crimes of rape. Three of these should have been recorded as rape crimes from the outset as they were third party reports from professionals (such as social services) and the other three were clearly reports of rape that did not fit the criteria for an N100 classification.

Staff in the public protection teams had a good understanding of what type of incident required an N100 classification. However, we found that frontline officers and, in particular, contact centre staff, had very little knowledge of the purpose and use of this classification. The force must ensure that it uses classification N100 consistently on all relevant occasions in order to minimise the delay in recording an offence of rape. This is therefore, an area for improvement.

The recording of a report of rape is important. Victims generally require significant support from the outset and any delay in providing support can be detrimental to both the recovery of the victim and to any investigation. This, in turn, can influence negatively any future judicial proceedings.

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

graded requires improvement

Crime reports held on other systems

13 of 17 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

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

We examined 49 vulnerable victim records on UNIFI. Of these, we found that 17 crimes should have been recorded, of which 13 had been. The missing crimes included a case of wilful neglect of an elderly resident in a care home, a common assault on an elderly female, one case of domestic abuse (common assault) in front of a child, and one of theft from an elderly victim.

We note, with approval, that the force has worked hard in making improvements to the knowledge and understanding of crime-recording requirements among officers and staff within its public protection teams. For example, detective sergeants within this department have been trained and are now designated as responsible for assessing third party referrals from partner agencies to improve crime-recording decisions. We also found a very positive approach among staff in this department, who clearly understood the need and importance of accurate crime-recording.

The force has also introduced twice-yearly reflective learning sessions in this department, which are intended to ensure learning from identified issues. This is a good process and provides an opportunity for the force to regularly satisfy itself that crime-recording decisions are being made appropriately. The force has also developed a process through which reports of rape and serious sexual assaults can be referred from sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) across the force, protecting, when required, the anonymity of the victim, while ensuring the crime is recorded. This is a positive step that may encourage other victims to confidently report these serious offences.

Despite these advances, the seriousness of the risks associated with under-recording reports of crime made to the public protection teams renders these gaps in recording an area for improvement.

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.

The force does not currently have a modern slavery database onto which referrals regarding reports of modern slavery are recorded. Therefore, we only examined the six reports the force had recorded as modern slavery crimes. Of these, we found a further six offences that should have been recorded but were not: three of these were modern slavery offences; one was an offence of violent crime; one a public order offence and one an offence of witness intimidation. The force needs to do more to ensure that it identifies, records and investigates all crimes from reports of modern slavery. This area, therefore, requires improvement.

The force has a limited understanding of the origins of reports about modern slavery. It accepts that it needs to do more work both nationally and regionally to understand better the issues of modern slavery so that it can improve its response. To this end, the force lead for modern slavery now chairs several local and regional meetings with partner agencies. The force has also been instrumental in developing a pilot process to improve the referral of reports of modern slavery to the Salvation Army, the national agency responsible for caring for victims of slavery. This means that the victims of modern slavery, who are often very vulnerable, receive support from this agency at an earlier stage than would otherwise have been possible. This is good practice.

We found that staff had a good, basic knowledge of modern slavery and modern slavery offences. We also found that staff had a good, basic knowledge of their respective responsibilities in relation to the recording of such offences and where they could find further information.

Cancelled crimes

Where additional verifiable information is obtained to show that a recorded crime did not occur, the crime record can be cancelled. In this respect we found that the force has made good progress.

We reviewed 20 cancelled recorded crimes each of rape and robbery, 19 of violence and 21 recorded sexual offence crimes (excluding rape). Of these 80 cancelled crimes we found that the crime standards unit had incorrectly approved the cancellation of three, these included one offence of violence and two of robbery.

Where a crime has been cancelled or transferred to another force for investigation, 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 the victim of this decision on 77 out of 80 occasions. 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 all victims of crime. We have concluded that the force is not complying with all of its responsibilities.

Only once a crime is recorded is the victim care unit able to provide a follow-up service to those victims requesting it. The delays we found to the recording of some reports of crime together with the failure to record a high number of reported crimes, means that referrals to the victim care unit are either delayed or do not occur at all.

However, we found that the force, after it records a crime, sends all victims a standard letter which provides them with information about the offence to which they have been subject and directs them to other organisations which can provide them with the support they may require.

Equality

HMIC 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. We found that, on occasions, the force does not capture even the basic equality information in relation to the victim such as age and gender.

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.

Officer and staff survey

We conducted a survey of officers and staff in Devon and Cornwall Police of their experience in respect of crime-recording. Only 30 respondents completed the survey; consequently any analysis of the comments of these respondents is not possible. However, the majority support the conclusions of this report in that crime-recording processes are convoluted, many staff do not understand the basic crime-recording principles and that supervision of crime-recording decision making is limited. We were pleased to receive positive comments from several respondents who felt that victim safeguarding arrangements had improved.

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

graded requires improvement

The leadership needed to address the concerns raised in the 2014 report has been lacking. The force has made only limited improvements to its crime-recording processes since 2014 and has far more to do if it is to stop failing victims of crime.

It is clear that the majority of officers and staff are placing the needs of the victim at the heart of their crime-recording decisions. However, the force should ensure that this approach is applied by 100 percent of officers and staff. We found systemic issues which relate to effective crime-recording arrangements, together with an insufficient knowledge of crime-recording requirements among officers and staff.

The force has made some 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. This includes improvements to the force’s use of out-of-court disposals (e.g cautions and community resolutions).

However, the force has implemented fewer than half of the changes recommended in the 2014 report. The limited progress in this respect is unacceptable and is seriously undermining the force’s crime-recording arrangements. The recommendations not adequately progressed include the following issues, all of which remain relevant:

  • reports recorded as enquiries on UNIFI (e.g. those used by the public protection teams) are recorded as crimes and that these reports are proportionately audited;
  • the FCR has insufficient resources and skills necessary to carry out a proportionate and effective audit programme that balances the cost of the checking process with the need to improve the accuracy of crime-recording. This includes the capacity to respond to emerging issues and to re-visit and test the effectiveness of changes made to respond to identified shortcomings;
  • quality assurance processes within the control room include compliance with the National Crime Recording Standard;
  • its guidance for recording rape clearly specifies the point at which, and conditions in which, a report of rape should be recorded as a crime;
  • it operates an adequate system of training in crime recording for all police officers and police staff who are responsible for making crime-recording decisions, and ensures those who require such training receive it as soon as reasonably practicable;
  • supervisors have oversight of the making of crime-recording decisions to ensure compliance with the HOCR, whether those decisions are made by personnel in force control rooms and call-handling centres, or by members of specialist teams, or officers or staff with routine contact with the public; and
  • in crime-recording, the presumption that the victim should always be believed is fully institutionalised and that all reports of crime are recorded as crimes at the earliest possible opportunity.

As these outstanding recommendations reflect many of the gaps in the efficiency of the crime-recording arrangements found during this inspection, they are included in the recommendations and areas for improvement set out above.

Conclusion

Devon and Cornwall Police’s crime-recording arrangements are currently below an acceptable standard.

The force also needs to address shortcomings in its auditing procedures and improve resilience in this area.

What next?

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

The serious causes of concern found during this inspection are such that HMIC will re-visit the force later in 2017 to assess this progress.