Essex Police - Crime Data Integrity inspection 2019

Overall judgment

graded outstanding

Essex Police is only the third force, of the 39 inspected so far in this programme, that we have judged as outstanding on our first visit.

Since our 2014 inspection, the force has made substantial progress to achieve a high standard of crime recording accuracy. Victims are at the forefront of its crime recording arrangements.

We found:

  • officers and staff understand the importance of crime recording;
  • a comprehensive and ongoing training programme for officers and staff;
  • effective and consistent supervisory and governance arrangements help to sustain improvements;
  • senior officers consistently highlight the importance of accurate crime recording and hold all officers to account for poor recording decisions;
  • a comprehensive feedback system, so officers and staff who make errors can learn the correct requirements for their future crime recording decisions; and
  • the force crime registrar (FCR) and his team are highly visible and accessible, and actively promote good crime recording standards across the force.

We examined crime reports from 1 August 2018 to 31 January 2019. Based on this, we estimate that the force records 95.8 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.53 percent) of crimes reported to it. We estimate that the force fails to record over 6,700 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.

But the force understands that there is still room for improvement and is committed to make those improvements. It recognises that it still doesn’t always make the correct crime recording decisions on the front line. And it must work to:

  • improve initial crime recording decisions, to reduce the need for the NCRS support and review team (NSRT)’s quality assurance;
  • improve officer and staff knowledge of stalking, harassment and offences relating to indecent images;
  • improve its collection of equality data; and
  • identify how to use this data to better inform its understanding and response to crime as it affects different communities.

Summary of findings

The force has substantially 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;
  • implemented the NSRT which quickly and effectively quality assures crime recording decisions;
  • improved its analysis and understanding of how changes to systems, processes or staffing affect crime recording;
  • an audit and inspection team to carry out reviews into areas of risk;
  • provided comprehensive training tailored to different roles, 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 FCR is supported by two deputy FCRs. They are responsible for oversight and audit of crime recording requirements. We found that the FCR and his two deputies have completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and are fully accredited for the role. A team supports them and undertakes regular audits of reported and recorded crime.

The NSRT quality assures crime recording and provides feedback to officers and staff on the accuracy of their decisions. Analysis of the NSRT’s effectiveness and value has shown that its work contributes significantly to the crime recording standards the force is achieving.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded outstanding

Overall crime recording rate

95.8% of reported crimes were recorded

The force has made significant 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 92.7 percent of crime it records (excluding fraud) comes through an auditable route. This doesn’t mean that 92.7 percent of crimes reported to Essex Police come through these routes, but that 92.7 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 95.8 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.53 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording more than 6,700 reports of crime each year. This recording rate is the highest of the 39 forces we have inspected to date.

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:

  • there is no daily search mechanism to identify rape reports that are incorrectly recorded as other crimes; and
  • frontline officers are failing to identify harassment offences, particularly in domestic abuse cases.

Of the 731 reports of crime that we audited, we assessed 130 as related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 122. It provided safeguarding to the victims of all eight unrecorded crimes. But it carried out no investigation in three of these cases.

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.

Violent against the person

95.6% of reported violent crimes were recorded

Over 2,500 reports of violent crime a year are not recorded

We found that 95.6 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.55 percent). By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 2,500 violent crimes that are reported to it each year.

This recording rate is very good and better than most forces we have inspected to date. 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.

When violent crimes aren’t recorded, this is often due to officers and staff not correctly identifying that crimes of stalking and harassment have occurred. To further improve recording standards, the force should work to address this gap in understanding of these crimes.

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

95.8% of reported sex offences were recorded

The force records 95.8 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.71 percent). This is a good standard of crime recording accuracy. We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 170 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

When sexual offence crimes are not recorded, these are often offences related to making, taking or distributing indecent images. As with offences of stalking and harassment, the force should work to address this gap in understanding of these crimes.

This recording rate shows the close attention the force gives to reports of sexual offences. It ensures victims generally 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

73 of 75 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.

Essex Police didn’t record two reported rape crimes out of 75 reports we reviewed. In one of these cases, it failed to provide support and safeguarding, refer the victim to partner organisations or carry out an investigation. This was because it initially incorrectly recorded the report of rape as an assault. However, there were no arrangements to check the classification of this report. The force has since introduced a new process to prevent a similar event in the future.

The force also makes proper use of 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 28 incident reports for which the force should have applied an N100 classification. It did so on 27 occasions. Separately, we also reviewed 20 sample records where it had applied an N100 classification and found that these were all correctly recorded.

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

graded good

Crime reports held on other systems

35 of 36 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. We were pleased to find the force works hard to make sure this is the case.

We examined 50 vulnerable victim records. We found that the force should have recorded 36 crimes, of which it had recorded 35.

The missed crime was from a multi-agency risk assessment conference multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) referral and involved a child victim of assault. The child was safeguarded but no investigation took place. We note that the force responded immediately to our findings and is already acting to address them. This includes sending a police supervisor to MARAC meetings to identify crime reports, and providing further crime recording training for MARAC staff.

The force’s excellent results are a testament to the bespoke training it provides to all public protection officers. The previous FCR provides the training, which makes sure that the trainer has a lot of knowledge and experience.

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 19 modern slavery records and found 37 crimes that should have been recorded. All 37 were recorded, which is welcome. But modern slavery crimes aren’t always being recorded by frontline officers. In those cases, the FCR and his team identify the crimes later and retrospectively make sure they are recorded. This causes unnecessary delays in recording these crimes, which may affect the investigation and the service the victim receives.

The force has worked hard to improve knowledge and understanding of modern slavery crime. This includes the daily monitoring of modern slavery incident records by analytical staff. Additionally, it is forming a new team to monitor all modern slavery incidents, make sure all crimes are recorded and help to investigate these offences. This should further improve how well the force can identify and respond to modern slavery crimes. A new web page and app will also help officers to identify offences and understand the steps to take when they do.

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 Essex Police had recorded, it had recorded the following number within 24 hours of receiving the report:

  • 200 out of 237 violent crimes;
  • 159 out of 182 sexual offences; and
  • 199 out of 211 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.

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 deputy FCR had correctly authorised 19 out of 20 cancelled rape offences. The FCR’s team is responsible for other crime cancellation decisions. The team had correctly authorised the cancellation of:

  • 15 out of 18 sexual offences;
  • 20 out of 20 violence offences; and
  • 11 out of 12 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 66 victims who should have been informed of the transfer or cancellation, 63 had been.

These findings show that the process for dealing with crime cancellations is generally effective.

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.

Essex Police is assisted by Victim Support. In addition, the police and crime commissioner has funded the Essex Victims Gateway. This is a website that provides advice on what to do and who to speak to if you are a victim of crime.

Equality

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.

The force routinely captures information on victims’ age, gender and ethnicity. But it doesn’t collect data on other protected characteristics when recording a crime, unless it is originally identified as a hate crime. It is exploring how to use victims’ equality data, but this analysis is mainly based on data not held on its crime recording system. The force should work to expand the equality data it captures when recording crime. This would improve its analysis, and inform its understanding and response to crime as it affects all communities within Essex.

Officer and staff survey

We carried out a survey of officers and staff in Essex Police about their experience of crime recording. Some 436 respondents took part. We were pleased to find that the vast majority believed the chief officer team clearly communicates the need for ethical crime recording.

Furthermore, the vast majority of respondents said supervisors encourage officers and staff to challenge unethical, unacceptable or unprofessional crime recording behaviours. 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 Essex Police is clearly committed to good crime recording. This has helped to set a culture where officers and staff fully understand the importance of crime recording.

We found the governance arrangements for crime recording are well established and effective. These include:

  • a chief officer-led crime data accuracy board which sanctions and oversees crime data integrity work;
  • a focus on holding supervisors accountable for crime recording accuracy;
  • reviewing 143 force policies to make sure crime recording accuracy is included where relevant; and
  • an IT-based approach to understanding the impact of improved crime data accuracy on crime figures, and identifying when process changes affect crime recording arrangements.

We noted how agile and effective these arrangements were when we made the force aware of problems raised during this inspection.

The force has used various communication tools to share important messages about crime recording, which staff have received well. These have included blogs from the chief constable and deputy chief constable, posters, emails and bulletins.

Additionally, we found that the FCR and his team were improving crime recording standards by making themselves visible, accessible and active in departments and districts. This has included supporting a comprehensive training program that is being provided across the force. This gives staff confidence to ask the FCR or his team for advice when they are unsure about crime recording requirements.

The force’s training programme is role-specific, so officers and staff are given training relevant to their area of work. But more needs to be done to further improve officers’ knowledge, so that their crime recording decisions are more consistently correct. This would help the force to be less reliant on the NSRT’s back-office quality assurance.

We were pleased to find that the force had completed all the recommendations from our 2014 report and from the 2014 national action plan.

Conclusion

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

The leadership shown has created a 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.

What next?

We welcome the steps taken by Essex 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 forces, we may carry out another unannounced crime data integrity inspection of this force at any time.