Humberside Police: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2018

Overall judgment

graded requires improvement

Humberside Police has made concerted efforts to improve crime-recording accuracy since our 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report. Most officers and staff have made progress in placing the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions. We also found the force has:

  • introduced new crime-recording processes which helped it improve its service to victims, including moving the point at which most crime-recording decisions are made to the initial point of contact;
  • invested in a new computer system (CONNECT) to help officers manage crime recording, victim contact and investigations;
  • recorded every offence where indecent images shared between young people have been disclosed;
  • implemented all recommendations set out in our 2014 report; and
  • made good progress against a national action plan to improve crime recording by police forces.

Despite these advances, work remains to be done. Based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 6 June 2017 to 6 December 2017, we estimate that the force fails to record over 14,200 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 85.7 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.81 percent). The 14.3 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include crimes such as sexual offences, public order and violence offences. The recording rate for violent crime is of particular concern at only 79.4 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.28 percent). Improvements are therefore required in these areas.

We consider these failures are caused by some officers and staff not understanding the crime-recording rules, compounded by limited supervision to correct these decisions at the earliest opportunity.

Summary of inspection findings

The force has improved its crime-recording processes since our 2014 report. In particular, we found that the force has:

  • re-designed its communication hub so that it now records more crimes at the point at which they are first reported. Additionally, hub staff conduct initial investigations into many crimes, ensuring that only those crimes where an officer’s attendance is required are allocated for further investigation;
  • made good progress implementing changes recommended in our 2014 report, and as a result has completed all of these recommendations;
  • introduced a new process for multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) in domestic abuse cases, which better enables partner agencies to share sensitive details of crimes which victims would otherwise not disclose to the police; and
  • introduced processes to ensure that it uses out-of-court disposals, such as cautions, youth cautions and community resolutions, appropriately.

The force crime incident registrar (FCR) – responsible for oversight and audit of crime-recording arrangements – has completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs, and is fully accredited. His work is supported by the deputy chief constable, an assistant chief constable, the hub commander, and a small team of auditors and designated decision makers (DDMs). We welcome the progress the force has made.

Nevertheless, we found that the force’s crime-recording performance needs to improve in the following areas:

  • The force is currently under-recording:
    • sexual crimes (including rape);
    • public order crimes; and
    • violence crimes, most notably crimes of harassment, common assault and malicious communications.
  • Crimes reported to the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) and protecting vulnerable people department, referred from other agencies, are not always recorded as crimes although safeguarding and victim care is undertaken.
  • Crime-recording decisions arising from domestic abuse incidents should be overseen by the attending officer’s supervisor, but this is not always happening.
  • The force has incorrectly cancelled some recorded crimes.
  • The force has incorrectly recorded some rape crimes reported to it, although safeguarding was conducted and investigations did take place.
  • The force must improve the extent to which it collects information regarding the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities.

Incorrect recording decisions are often caused by some officers and staff not understanding the crime-recording rules. These errors are further compounded by limited supervision of crime-recording decisions.

We note, in concluding this section, that the force has been positive in its approach to improving crime-recording accuracy. Before our inspection the deputy chief constable had been overseeing a crime data integrity improvement process, managed by an assistant chief constable.

This process is governed by a comprehensive action plan designed to improve the service the force provides to victims of crime in Humberside.

Force audits conducted since our audit have shown an improvement in recording accuracy. Significant measures the force has taken since our audit include ensuring it records all domestic abuse crime when it is first reported to the force.

These are welcome developments.

Areas for improvement

The force should ensure that it:

  • records all reports of crime at the first point that sufficient information exists to do so and in any event within 24 hours of receipt of the report. In particular, the force should ensure it does so in all domestic abuse cases;
  • only routinely uses the diary appointment system for reports of less serious crime, and that it does not resolve serious matters such as domestic abuse using this process (unless in exceptional circumstances in line with the victim’s wishes, and ensuring safeguarding needs are met);
  • records all reports of crimes deemed suitable for a diary appointment, at the first point of contact;
  • records all reports of crime made by a professional third party acting in a professional capacity on behalf of the victim;
  • develops and operates procedures for effective supervision of crime-recording decisions throughout the whole force;
  • improves its approach to the cancellation of recorded crimes and immediately takes steps to ensure that when it cancels a recorded crime, it always informs the victim of this decision;
  • takes immediate steps to ensure that all reported crimes of rape are recorded without delay and that classification N100 is used correctly; and
  • improves how it collects diversity information from victims of crime and uses this to inform its compliance with its equality duty.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded requires improvement

Overall crime-recording rate

85.7% of reported crimes 
were recorded

Over 14,200 reports of crime a year 
are not recorded

The force has further work to do 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 us that 95.4 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime reporting route. This does not mean that 95.4 percent of crimes reported to Humberside Police come through these routes but that 95.4 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 85.7 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.81 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 14,200 reports of crime each year. Those failings are potentially depriving many victims of the services to which they are entitled.

Of a total of 1,473 reports of crime we audited, we found 324 crimes that we assessed to be related to domestic abuse. Of these 324 crimes, the force had recorded 240. The 84 offences not recorded included offences of violence and public disorder. Safeguarding requirements had been considered in all cases, whereas an investigation had been completed in some, but not all.

The force operates a system whereby most domestic abuse crimes were allocated for an officer to attend and make a crime-recording decision, overseen by the officer’s supervisor. Where crimes were not recorded we found evidence of incorrect decision making by the attending officer, compounded by a lack of effective supervision. In a small number of cases, information the victim provided wasn’t accurately recorded on the incident log, which also resulted in no crime being recorded.

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

We note that the force was aware of deficiencies in its approach to crime recording in domestic abuse cases and had undertaken an independent review of its processes overseen by a chief officer. That review has resulted in changes to how it deals with domestic abuse crimes, which has led to quicker crime-recording decisions.

The force needs to address deficiencies in its crime-recording processes. In particular we found that:

  • Where officers do attend reports of crime they sometimes don’t record crimes. This is due to them not understanding the rules and their obligations to record a crime, particularly where offences of harassment, common assault, public order and malicious communications are disclosed.
  • Officers and staff don’t always record a valid explanation for why a crime should not be recorded and, in the absence of sufficiently robust supervision, don’t have their crime-recording decisions challenged enough.
  • When dealing with complex crimes, call handlers and response officers aren’t always sure of crime-recording requirements.
  • When third party reports of crime are made to the force by a person acting in a professional capacity, officers and staff often fail to record the crime.
  • When diary appointments are made, attendance can often be delayed by days. This may mean victims disengage from contact with the force, and as a consequence their crimes may not be recorded.

We note, in concluding this section, that before being notified of our inspection the force’s crime data integrity steering group recognised some of the gaps in crime-recording arrangements. The group had proactively identified issues, particularly in the hub, and had taken steps to improve processes. This has included improving the diary appointment system so that officers attend appointments more promptly, which in turn means that fewer victims disengage from contact with the force.

This group has continued to consider findings from our audit and recommended improvements, many of which the force has implemented. These are welcome developments for victims.

Violence against the person

79.4% of reported violent crimes 
were recorded

Over 6,200 reports of violent crime a year 
are not recorded

We found that 79.4 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.28 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 13,900 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 better recording of reported crime is acute.

In most cases, where violent crimes weren’t recorded, we found the principal causes to be:

  • the processes for the recording of a reported crime (described earlier);
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules; and
  • inadequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Victims of violent crime, especially victims of more serious violence, often require substantial support. This support comes from the police, and in many cases was provided, but is also provided by other appropriate agencies such as Victim Support. In those circumstances, crime recording is even more important. Failing to properly record a violent crime can result in Victim Support being unaware that a person in need of support has become a victim of violent crime. That, in turn, deprives victims of the support they need and deserve.

We found that the force’s internal audits have shown more accurate recording of violent crime since our audit. We welcome this improvement. The force should continue to monitor and assess the effectiveness of changes to its crime-recording arrangements.

Sexual offences

93.5% of reported sex offences 
were recorded

Over 170 reports of sex offences a year 
are not recorded

The force is good at recording reports of sexual offences. We found it records 93.5 percent of sexual offences that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.09 percent). By our estimate, the force fails to record over 170 reported sexual offences that are reported to it each year.

Despite the good performance, the force can do better. We found that the force had failed to record reports of sexual offences against both adults and children. These included reports of sexual assaults on children, and of children being incited to engage in sexual activity.

As before, the causes of under-recording sexual offences are:

  • deficient processes for recording a reported crime;
  • officers and staff’s lack of knowledge of crime-recording rules, particularly third party reporting; and
  • a lack of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Significantly though, the force had recorded every offence of taking or sharing indecent images of a young person. Underpinning this good performance was recent training it provided to all officers and staff and its appointment of a dedicated decision maker (DDM) to oversee these investigations.

Rape

59 of 67 audited rape reports were accurately recorded

Rape is one of the most serious sexual offence crimes a victim can experience. Therefore, the accurate recording of such reports is especially important. It helps ensure the victim receives the service they have a right to expect and deserve, and allows the police to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area.

We found that 59 of 67 reports of rape reported to the force had been recorded. These include reports that originated from the force incident system, from third party reports (for example, those reports received from health professionals or social workers) and from investigations involving vulnerable victims conducted by specialist officers dealing with adult protection, child protection and domestic abuse.

Of the eight reported rapes not recorded the force had carried out investigations in all but one case. It made arrests in two cases, and submitted a file to CPS in one of these two cases. In the remaining case where there had been no investigation the crime was disclosed by a professional working with the victim, but the victim declined to support any investigation. In every one of the eight cases, the victims were supported and safeguarded.

The force needs to improve its understanding and use of the Home Office classification N100. Introduced in April 2015, the N100 classification is a record of why reported incidents of rape or attempted rapes, whether from victims, witnesses or third parties, haven’t been immediately recorded as a confirmed crime. This can include where additional information confirms the rape didn’t occur, or where the rape occurred in another force area and was therefore transferred to the relevant force to record and investigate.

From our audit, we found that only nine out of 15 N100s that should have been recorded actually were recorded.

We further examined 20 N100 records. Of these, 12 were recorded correctly and one was incorrectly recorded. Of the remaining seven, DDMs had correctly changed four of them to recorded rapes. The other three were wrongly recorded as N100 and should have been recorded as rape from the outset (as above). These three were reports from professionals acting on behalf of the victims.

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

graded requires improvement

Crime reports held on other systems

37 of 49 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

To be confident that vulnerable victims always receive the support they need, the force must ensure that it always records crimes reported directly to its public protection teams.

We examined 50 vulnerable victim records: 25 adult records and 25 children’s records. We found that 49 crimes should have been recorded but only 37 were recorded. Improvements are required.

An examination of the records showed that in every case safeguarding had been provided to each victim. Positive action was taken in every case including, where appropriate, proportionate investigations. Among the crimes missed were several common assaults and a sexual assault where the force had already recorded a crime of rape for the same victim.

The force has developed a process in multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) where partner agencies, such as social and health services, can give details of crimes committed against vulnerable victims, with a restriction on what investigative action the police can take without the victim’s consent. This enables the force to understand the impact of crime on vulnerable victims and to take appropriate measures to safeguard these victims. Several of the missed crimes were disclosed during this process.

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 and found that the force performed well in this respect. We also examined the force’s understanding of the origin of such reports.

No modern slavery crimes were missed by the force. Of the 15 recorded crimes of modern slavery we examined, 11 had been correctly recorded. Three had been incorrectly recorded as a crime and one criminal damage offence was wrongly recorded as a modern slavery crime.

We also examined 16 modern slavery referrals made into the force and found that of the 15 offences that should have been recorded, the force had correctly recorded 12 of them. The three missing modern slavery crimes related to three individual victims, but the force had recorded other modern slavery crimes in respect of these three victims.

All modern slavery victims received a good service and safeguarding was undertaken in all cases.

The force’s modern slavery lead works at local, regional, and national levels with other forces and interested parties. Modern slavery is understood by officers at a local level. We were provided with details of effective operations which had been conducted by the force.

Timeliness

Where the information obtained at the first point of contact satisfies the crime-recording decision-making process, the expectation is that identified crimes will be recorded without delay. In any case recording must take place within 24 hours. We found that, of the reports of crime that had been recorded by the force, only 46 out of 59 reports of rape, 325 out of 451 reports of violent crime and 139 out of 187 sexual offences (excluding rape) had been recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report.

While some victims may be referred to support agencies by other means, the delay in recording a reported crime also delays referral of the victim to Victim Support. As some victims would benefit from the early support this team can give, these delays are unacceptable.

In concluding this section, we acknowledge that the period of our audit coincided with the introduction of the CONNECT crime management system and that this adversely affected timeliness. Performance data provided from CONNECT has shown an improvement in recent months as officers and staff become more acquainted with the system and as process issues have been resolved.

We also acknowledge that following changes within the hub, the force has improved timeliness of its diary appointments.

Cancelled crimes

Where additional verifiable information (AVI) 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’s performance needs to improve.

The force operates a system whereby only the FCR and his staff can cancel recorded crimes and this should be a good and effective process.

We reviewed a sample of cancelled recorded crimes of rape, other sexual offences, violence and robbery. We found that the FCR had authorised correctly the cancellation of only 16 out of 20 offences of rape. DDMs working with the FCR had correctly cancelled only 12 out of 20 sexual offences, 16 out of 20 violence offences and 16 out of 19 robbery offences. This needs to improve.

Where a crime has been cancelled a victim should always know the status of his or her reported crime. In the case of a decision to cancel a recorded crime, the very least the victim should expect is an explanation of the reason for this decision. We found that the force had informed victims on only 45 out of 59 occasions when a victim needed to be informed of that decision. This needs to improve.

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 the victims of crime. We have concluded that the force is aware of its responsibilities under this code. In particular, we found that the force, after it records a crime, sends victims a standard letter with information about the offence committed against them. At this point the force also refers the victim’s case to Victim Support for further support and advice.

We also found that staff are aware of their responsibilities under the code. We found many examples of the force providing a good and on occasions an enhanced service to support victims of crime.

Equality

We found that the force must improve its collection of information regarding the effect of criminality on 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 that it may 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 the force collects equality information for the purpose of hate crime investigations, but in all other cases only obtains basic equality information. Importantly, so long as the force fails to record such information on every occasion, 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 Humberside Police of their experience of crime recording. Some 156 respondents completed the survey. We were pleased to find that the clear majority of respondents reported that the force’s approach to crime recording had improved or significantly improved since our 2014 inspection. Furthermore, officers and staff were clear that they no longer felt under any pressure to minimise the number of crimes recorded because of performance targets.

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

graded outstanding

The culture and leadership of crime recording in the force is outstanding.

Senior officers demonstrate strong leadership with regard to crime-recording expectations. We found that officers and staff relied on the victim’s initial account when making their crime-recording decisions.

We also found evidence of strong governance, with crime data integrity forming part of the assistant chief constable’s improvement group (the Effectiveness Board) with oversight from the deputy chief constable. Since 2017 the force has been implementing a crime data integrity action plan designed to serve victims better. This has included increased staffing within the hub, more DDMs and auditors working in support of the FCR, local provision of training to officers and staff and clear communication of the need to record crimes accurately.

The force has made good progress with implementing changes recommended in our 2014 report, and as a result all of these recommendations have been completed. The force has also made good progress against the national action plan, developed by the national lead on crime statistics following the 2014 report and which all forces have been asked to implement.

Conclusion

Humberside Police has improved its crime-recording processes since 2014. However, improvements are still needed.

The strong leadership and positive approach among officers and staff toward victims is welcome. However, the force needs to further improve its crime-recording processes. It should also ensure that its staff and officers fully understand the crime-recording standards expected of them, and that these standards are supervised effectively.

What next?

We note that following our audit the force took immediate steps to ensure that every missed crime found during our audit was retrospectively recorded and assessed for investigation. The force also began work to identify how it could further improve crime recording. We welcome this and will continue to monitor progress.

The force, as with all police forces, may be subject to a further unannounced crime data integrity inspection at any time.