Dorset Police Crime Data Integrity inspection 2020

Overall judgment

graded good

Since our 2014 inspection, Dorset Police has made changes to its systems and processes to improve crime recording. These changes, supported by relevant training and messages from the force crime registrar (FCR), have improved the crime recording standards the force is achieving.

We found the force has:

  • created and implemented a crime data integrity (CDI) action plan to address our 2014 inspection’s recommendations and areas for improvement;
  • created another action plan in 2017;
  • trained staff in the force contact centre (FCC) to make sure they record crimes at first point of contact;
  • high levels of crime recording accuracy overall;
  • an effective process to identify and rectify incorrect crime recording decisions through the crime management unit (CMU);
  • robust crime recording governance and performance management arrangements; and
  • an effective feedback process through the make the difference team (MTD), so officers and staff who make errors can learn the correct requirements for their future crime recording decisions.

In autumn 2017, the force introduced a temporary crime validation team. This team reviews anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse incidents to make sure crimes are recorded properly. The force has recently decided to retain this team for another year. Because the team’s interventions contribute in large part to the recording standard we found, this decision is welcome.

We examined crime reports from 1 March to 31 August 2019. Based on this, we estimate that the force records 93.3 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.59 percent) of crimes reported to it. We estimate that the force fails to record over 3,800 reported crimes each year.

This recording standard is good. But the force acknowledges that it still has more work to do. It recognises that it still doesn’t always make the correct crime recording decisions. And it must work to:

  • make sure frontline staff’s initial crime recording decisions are correct;
  • make sure all staff who make crime recording decisions have enough training, particularly on offences such as stalking, harassment and malicious communications;
  • improve the training of designated decision makers (DDMs) to make sure crime cancellation and transfer decisions are correct; and
  • make sure all third party professional reports in the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) are appropriately recorded.

Read the full 2014 report (PDF document, 301 kB)

graded good

Summary of inspection findings

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

  • provided training to new officers and those in the FCC and CMU, which has improved crime recording compliance;
  • effective feedback processes, which support its commitment to continual improvement, for officers and staff through the MTD;
  • strong governance arrangements to make sure it maintains the improvements it has made to its crime recording accuracy;
  • implemented a flexible and risk-led audit schedule;
  • made good use of audit results to inform training and its focus for improvements; and
  • completed most of the national and Dorset-specific recommendations from our 2014 report.

The FCR is responsible for overseeing and auditing crime recording requirements. She is supported by a deputy FCR. They have both completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and are fully accredited for the role.

Despite these advances, the force needs to improve:

  • the availability of training to all officers and staff working in a crime recording role, particularly those in the MASH. This training should convey how important crime recording is for victims to get good service and support;
  • the DDMs’ crime transfer and cancellation decisions; and
  • its collection of equality information, to help it understand and respond to the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within its communities.

Areas for improvement

The force should immediately:

  • put in place arrangements to improve its DDMs’ decision making for crime transfers and cancellations;
  • provide training in the Home Office Counting Rules for all officers and staff who make crime recording decisions, particularly those working on the front line and in the MASH; and
  • improve how it collects and analyses equality data through its crime reporting and recording systems.

Read the full 2014 report (PDF document, 301 kB)

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded good

Overall crime recording rate

93.3% of reported crimes were recorded

Over 3,800 reports of crime a year are not 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 96.3 percent of crime it records (excluding fraud) comes through an auditable route. This doesn’t mean that 96.3 percent of crimes reported to Dorset Police come through these routes, but that 96.3 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 93.3 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.59 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording more than 3,800 reports of crime each year.

We found that the CMU’s quality assurance and oversight of crime recording decisions were effective. The force also has constructive feedback processes for officers and staff, via the MTD. These processes support its commitment to continual improvement.

In most cases where the force still doesn’t record reported crimes, we found this was because:

  • officers and staff don’t always fully understand and apply changes made in April 2018 to the recording requirements for malicious communications, stalking and harassment offences; and
  • it doesn’t always follow the rules for recording crime reports received from third party professionals.

Of the 985 reports of crime that we audited, we assessed 250 as related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 217. The 33 offences not recorded included:

  • 29 violent crimes;
  • two sexual offences; and
  • two other crimes.

The force didn’t provide safeguarding to some of the victims of these unrecorded crimes. And it didn’t investigate many of the crimes at all. Most of the unrecorded domestic abuse crimes involved harassment, stalking or coercive and controlling behaviour. These failings reflect a lack of understanding of the recording requirements for these crimes, particularly in the MASH and on the front line. Wrongly, officers and staff often choose to leave crime recording decisions about these offences to the CMU.

Violent crimes

90.8% of reported violent crimes were recorded

Over 1,900 reports of violent crime a year
are not recorded

We found that 90.8 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.57 percent). By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 1,900 violent crimes that are reported to it each year.

In most cases where the force still doesn’t record violent crimes, this is because some frontline officers fail to identify and record certain crimes. These include common assault, harassment, stalking and malicious communications.

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

96.2% of reported sex offences were recorded

The force records 96.2 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of 2.65 percent). This is a good standard of crime recording accuracy. We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 70 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

This recording rate shows the close attention the force gives to reports of sexual offences. It makes sure victims receive the service and support they deserve. This is welcome and is particularly important as many of these crimes are very serious in nature and cause significant harm to their victims.

Rape

58 out of 62 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.

We found 62 reports of rape that the force should have recorded, and it had correctly recorded 58 of these. Of the unrecorded crimes:

  • three were misclassified as other offences; and
  • one wasn’t recorded at all.

The force safeguarded the victims in three of these cases but only carried out an investigation in two.

The Home Office classification 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 12 incident reports for which the force should have applied an N100 classification. It did so on all 12 occasions.

Separately, we also reviewed 22 sample records where it had applied an N100 classification. We found it had correctly recorded 20. Of the two incorrect records, one should have been recorded at the outset as a crime of rape and the other as a crime of assault by penetration. Both were later correctly recorded.

This shows that Dorset Police has an effective N100 process.

Read the full 2014 report (PDF document, 301 kB)

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

graded requires improvement

Crime reports held on other systems

24 out of 31 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

For vulnerable victims to get the support they need, it is important that crimes reported directly to public protection teams are always recorded. The force needs to improve how it identifies and records vulnerable victim crimes.

The force’s public protection team is based in a MASH. The MASH has recently gone through a period of change. As a result, agencies concerned with children’s safeguarding aren’t all based in the same place.

We found that the police don’t always have the crime recording knowledge they need to consistently make the right decisions. This includes police staff who deal with referrals from other agencies in the MASH, and officers who attend multi-agency meetings. So this is an area for improvement.

We examined 24 vulnerable victim adult records and 31 vulnerable victim child records. We found that the force should have recorded 17 crimes, of which it had only recorded ten.

The seven unrecorded crimes were:

  • two crimes of controlling and coercive behaviour;
  • two common assaults;
  • one theft;
  • one crime of sexual activity with a child; and
  • one modern slavery offence.

In addition, we examined 17 email professional third party referrals. We found 14 crimes, and the force had correctly recorded all of them.

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 examined 23 modern slavery crimes and reports received through the modern slavery referral mechanism. We found a total of 16 modern slavery crimes that should have been recorded. The force had recorded them all correctly.

In addition, these records contained reports of 13 other crimes. All of these were recorded correctly.

The force has worked hard to improve its workforce’s knowledge and understanding of modern slavery. This is reflected in its high standards when recording modern slavery crime. Information resources are easily accessible, and officers have received training on modern slavery.

Timeliness

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

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

  • 394 out of 424 reports of violent crime;
  • 138 out of 152 sexual offences; and
  • 271 out of 285 other offences.

So generally, when the force makes correct crime recording decisions, its procedures make sure it records the crime within 24 hours. This timely recording enables it to make early referrals to Victim Support. This is very welcome.

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.

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

We found that the FCR had correctly authorised all 14 cancelled offences of rape. DDMs are responsible for other crime cancellation decisions. The DDMs had correctly authorised the cancellation of:

  • 17 out of 20 sexual offences;
  • 16 out of 20 violence offences; and
  • 9 out of 10 robbery offences.

We found that the DDMs hadn’t had enough training for their role. So the decisions they make when cancelling or transferring crimes need to improve.

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 36 victims who should have been informed of the transfer or cancellation, 32 had been.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Document) 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.

When Dorset Police records a crime, it asks the victims if they are happy for it to pass their details to Victim Support. If they agree, the police pass their details on accordingly.

Victim Support offers free, confidential, face‐to‐face support to people who have been victims of crime or are afraid of someone. Also, victims can contact a member of Victim Support staff directly by telephone or email for one‐off advice or continuing support.

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 groups and how vulnerable they are to (or how likely they are to report) different types of crime.

We found that the force routinely records information on victims’ age, nationality and gender, but not on ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation. It can only get this information from the narrative or audio recording of the call when the victim happens to disclose it.

If the force fails to record such information, it won’t be able to fully understand and respond to the effect of crime on identifiable groups in its communities. So, this is an area for improvement.

Officer and staff survey

We carried out a survey of officers and staff in Dorset Police about their experience of crime recording. Some 231 respondents took part. We were pleased to find that most agreed that the chief officer team clearly communicates the need for ethical crime recording.

Also, staff were clear that they didn’t feel any pressure to minimise the number of recorded crimes because of performance targets.

Read the full 2014 report (PDF document, 301 kB)

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

graded outstanding

After our 2014 inspection, Dorset Police began a programme to improve its crime recording across all departments and districts. It put an improvement plan in place, which it completed and replaced with a CDI action plan in 2017. The deputy chief constable (DCC) is the executive lead for crime recording. And the topic features on the force risk register.

The force has made progress against its CDI action plan to address both the Dorset-specific and national recommendations from our 2014 inspection. In particular, it has focused on recording crime at first report and on quality assuring records in its back office. The force’s high compliance rate and the national recognition of its data quality are proof of the progress it has made.

There are a range of governance arrangements that consider crime recording issues. These include:

  • a monthly performance board, chaired by the DCC and attended by the police and crime commissioner, which discusses the force’s own crime recording audit results;
  • a monthly meeting between the FCR, MTD lead and DCC that focuses on ways to improve crime recording; and
  • daily management meetings.

The force uses its own audit results by reviewing them in strategic meetings and providing one-to-one and team training through the MTD. And it reports the findings to its learning and development group to inform future training requirements. This is good practice.

The FCR is fully supported by the chief officers. She is empowered to make the necessary decisions to maintain and further improve crime recording.

However, some frontline staff see crime recording as a statistical exercise and more to do with resourcing than meeting victims’ needs. The force should do more to inform staff about the importance of recording reported crime. It should explain how not doing so can negatively affect the service and support that victims deserve and have the right to expect.

Conclusion

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

The leadership team is clearly committed to good crime recording. This has made sure that more victims receive the service they are entitled to and can access support and safeguarding where needed.

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 Dorset Police 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.

Read the full 2014 report (PDF document, 301 kB)

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