Lincolnshire Police: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2018

Overall judgment

graded inadequate

Lincolnshire Police has made efforts to increase crime-recording accuracy which have led to some improvements since our 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report.

We found that:

  • many officers and staff have made progress in placing the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions;
  • a good level of recording accuracy for reported sexual offences is being achieved; and
  • officers and staff work hard to identify any safeguarding needs of the victim and seek to ensure these are provided.

Much work remains to be done, however. The force has completed both local recommendations for improvement made in our 2014 report, but only two out of the five national recommendations. This is adversely influencing the effectiveness and efficiency of its crime-recording arrangements.

Based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 June 2017 to 30 November 2017, we estimate that the force fails to record over 9,400 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 81.2 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.93 percent). The 18.8 percent of reported crimes that went unrecorded included a large proportion of common assaults and malicious communication offences, and a small number of more serious crimes including sexual offences, grievous bodily harm and rape. Some of these crimes involved domestic abuse. The recording rate for violent crime is a particular cause of concern at only 72.7 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.30 percent). This means that on too many occasions, the force is failing victims of crime.

Improvements must be made in many areas. We believe there are too many failures to make the correct crime-recording decision at the first opportunity and these failures are caused by the force’s reliance on the recording decisions of officers attending incidents. In particular, incorrect recording decisions are evident in cases of harassment, common assault and malicious communications. There is also limited supervision to correct these decisions at the earliest opportunity.

Summary of inspection findings

The force has made some improvements in its crime-recording arrangements since our 2014 report. These include progress in:

  • implementing the action plan developed by the national policing lead on crime statistics following the 2014 report, which all forces have been asked to implement. This includes improvements to the force’s use of out-of-court disposals;
  • the accuracy of crime-recording decisions for reported sexual offences (excluding rape); and
  • developing an understanding of modern slavery offences among officers and staff.

Despite these advances, the force’s compliance with the national crime recording standards (NCRS) is unacceptable in the following areas:

  • The force is currently under-recording too many reports of crime, including:
    • violent crimes;
    • rape; and
    • crimes involving vulnerable victims, including victims of domestic abuse.

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

  • Crimes reported during incidents involving domestic abuse are often not recorded.
  • Incidents which have been disclosed directly to public protection units as part of multi-agency safeguarding arrangements, and which amount to a crime in law, are not always recorded as such.
  • Delays in recording a reported crime are leading to delays in referrals to Victim Support, 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, in particular, groups with identifiable protected characteristics (e.g. gender, sexuality or ethnicity).

Some of these failings are a consequence of insufficient progress since our 2014 report. Some officers and staff do not understand their crime-recording responsibilities, and there is only limited supervision of the crime-recording decisions taken by officers and staff.

We also conclude that the audits carried out by the force were not conducted correctly and the results suggested a better compliance with the recording rules than was the case.

We note that the deputy chief constable, responsible for crime recording, has taken positive action since his arrival. The force has been actively attempting to progress improvements in crime recording, and had the true degree of crime recording accuracy been known, those improvements would have been carried out with greater urgency.

We acknowledge that since our findings have been disclosed to the force, many positive steps have been taken. These steps include the creation of an interim action plan to address our findings, increased scrutiny around crime-recording decisions, and training for specialist staff dealing with reports of crime made by professionals acting on behalf of victims.

Cause of concern

Lincolnshire Police officers and staff too often fail 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 the force is letting down many victims of crime.

The force is failing to ensure it properly records all crimes of rape and all crimes of violence, including domestic abuse crimes and crimes reported directly to its public protection department.

Recommendations

The force should immediately:

  • take steps to identify and address gaps in its systems and processes for identifying and recording all reports of crime;
  • ensure that on all occasions when a domestic abuse crime is reported, the incident is categorised as a crime from the outset rather than as a domestic incident; and
  • ensure that all crimes reported within public protection units are recorded at the point where sufficient information exists to create the crime.

Within three months the force should:

  • develop and implement procedures for the effective supervision of crime-recording decisions throughout the whole force;
  • put in place arrangements to ensure that where more than one crime is disclosed within an incident record, or is identified as part of other recorded crime investigations, these are recorded; and
  • ensure sufficient audit capacity and capability is available to the force crime and incident registrar (FCIR) to provide reassurance that the force is identifying and managing any gaps in its crime-recording accuracy. This is particularly important for reports of crime involving vulnerable victims and those crimes where the risk to the victim is greatest, such as rape and violence.

Within six months, the force should:

  • design and provide training for all staff and officers who make crime-recording decisions. This should include:
    • the extent of the information required 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 most cases will be at the point of first report; and
    • offences involving malicious communications, harassment and common assault.

Areas for improvement

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;
  • put in place arrangements to improve the process for informing victims when their recorded crime has been cancelled; and
  • improve the recording of modern slavery crimes disclosed during investigations or via the national referral mechanism.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded inadequate

Overall crime-recording rate

81.2% of reported crimes 
were recorded

Over 9,400 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 (HOCR). We examined reports of crime which the force received, and for which an auditable record was created. The force informed us that 94.1 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime-reporting route. This does not mean that 94.1 percent of crimes reported to Lincolnshire Police come through these routes but that 94.1 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 81.2 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.93 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 9,400 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 1,556 reports of crime that we audited, we found 394 that we assessed to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these 394 crimes, the force had recorded 259. The 135 offences not recorded included offences of rape, violence and crimes involving harassment and malicious communication.

We found that many of these failures involved crimes being reported at the first point of contact with the force, but not being recorded. This was often because the attending officer responsible for the crime-recording decision either failed to recognise that a crime had been committed, or failed to provide enough information to identify that a crime had not been committed. When a domestic abuse incident is reported, it is a supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that it has been dealt with correctly, including whether a crime should be recorded. On too many occasions this supervision failed to correct the decisions made by the attending officer.

We also found that on too many occasions, domestic abuse cases were deemed suitable for diary appointments where an officer would attend at an agreed time. The force operates a process whereby all crime-related incidents deemed suitable for diary appointments will have the crime recorded before the officer attends, to ensure that crimes are recorded within 24 hours. We found that this was not routinely happening and that many appointments were either attended many days after the incident occurred or were cancelled by victims. This fails to comply with NCRS and provides a poor service to victims. The force has recognised this and taken steps to improve the timeliness of diary appointments. We welcome this development.

We did find that in these domestic abuse cases, safeguarding had been conducted on nearly every occasion and it was clear that officers and staff fully understand their responsibilities.

The under-recording of domestic abuse crimes and the consequent absence of understanding of the full extent of domestic abuse across the force are serious concerns.

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 oversight of crime-recording decisions by supervisors.

Deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes are a concern. We found that:

  • when further offences come to light after the initial attendance by an officer, or during subsequent investigation, the force does not always record these crimes; and
  • incident records that contain multiple reports of crime often result incorrectly in only one crime report being recorded.

We found that frontline officers and staff are not always sure of crime-recording requirements. Particularly, they:

  • do not always understand basic crime-recording principles and requirements relating to common assault, malicious communications and harassment; and
  • on too many occasions give insufficient emphasis to the initial account of the victim, at the point of report, when assessing whether on the balance of probability an offence has been committed.

We also found that supervision of crime-recording decisions requires improvement. This is because:

  • in domestic abuse cases, the force expects inspectors (for high-risk cases) and sergeants (for medium and standard-risk cases) to ensure that all crimes reported by victims are recorded. However, this is not happening to the expected standard;
  • the force places a duty on inspectors based within the force control room to conduct regular audits of certain incident types, ensuring that all crimes reported have been recorded. However, this is not always happening due to other more pressing concerns that the inspectors must deal with; and
  • the FCIR has limited capacity to audit crime recording. This is particularly the case within some of the risk areas such as reports of crime involving vulnerable victims and victims of domestic abuse.

Violence against the person

72.97 of reported violent crimes 
were recorded

Over 3,200 reports of violent crime a year 
are not recorded

We found that 72.7 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.30 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 3,200 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. In addition to offences of common assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, we found the force had failed to record and investigate crimes of grievous bodily harm and wounding where victims were badly injured. We therefore find the force’s under-recording of reports of violent crime to be a serious cause for concern.

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

  • the poor processes currently in place for recording a reported crime (described earlier);
  • officers and staff not fully understanding the crime-recording rules, particularly for crimes such as harassment, malicious communications and common assault; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Victims of violent crime, and particularly victims of more serious violence, often require substantial support. This support should come not only from the reporting and investigating officers, but from other appropriate organisations such as Victim Support. Under those circumstances, crime recording is even more important. Failing to record properly a violent crime can result in Victim Support receiving no notification that a person has become a victim of violent crime. That in turn deprives victims of the support they may need and deserve.

Sexual offences

91.1% of reported sex offences 
were recorded

Over 140 reports of sex offences a year 
are not recorded

We found that the force records 91.1 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.54 percent). We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 140 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

This recording rate is good but the force can do better. The need to record all sexual offences is important given the very serious nature of sexual offences and the harm they cause to their victims. We found that the force failed to record crimes against both adults and children.

The causes of that under-recording are similar to those described earlier, but in addition there is a lack of understanding among officers and staff concerning third party reports of crime. Where a person makes a report of crime on behalf of a victim – and that person is a parent or other person closely connected to the victim, or is acting in a professional capacity (such as a social worker) – the force must record the crime in the same way that it would if the victim was making the report. Other reasons are:

  • deficiencies in the processes that are currently in place for recording a reported crime
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Rape

99 of 123 audited rape reports were accurately recorded

Rape is one of the most serious crimes a victim can experience. Therefore, the accurate recording of such reports is especially important; it allows the police to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area.

In Lincolnshire Police, we found 123 reports of rape that should have been recorded as crimes, but only 99 of these had been correctly recorded. These included reports that originated from the force incident system, reports disclosed during modern slavery investigations and reports received directly by specialist officers from third party professionals.

Eleven of the missed rape crimes involved two victims of modern slavery who had been coerced into prostitution. Six of the missed rape crimes were disclosed during an investigation where one rape crime had been correctly recorded, but the investigating officer had failed to record the further crimes (though a full investigation of all of the rapes had been conducted). Four offences had been recorded as a sexual offence and investigated accordingly, but not classified as rape. One missed rape crime was disclosed following a domestic abuse incident where the officer conducted a risk assessment with the victim. The remaining two rape crimes were disclosed by third party professionals but were not recorded as rape crimes from the outset by the force.

Investigations took place in all but one of these offences. All victims were safeguarded and received support from specialist support services. We note that the force has since recorded every rape crime and contacted each victim.

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, or where there has been no confirmation from the victim that a crime has taken place.

Lincolnshire Police does not use the classification N100. The chief officer team decided that the force will record all reports of rape as a crime at the first point of contact with the victim. The force will then have the crime recorded in a different force area if that is where it occurred, prior to cancelling their own crime. The force will investigate each case and cancel any crime which is not correctly recorded, either because it is a duplicate, or there is credible evidence that the rape did not occur. This approach is supported by a process in the force control room whereby all records of rape should be created at the point of reporting.

There is a requirement that forces should use classification N100 where appropriate, and the force should consider the process they adopt in light of this requirement.

The causes of the under-recording of the 24 rape crimes are the same as were identified above in respect of other sexual offences. These are:

  • a lack of understanding of the crime-recording requirements in respect of third party professional reports;
  • the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for recording a reported crime
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

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

graded inadequate

Crime reports held on other systems

7 of 28 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

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 52 vulnerable victim records and found that the force should have recorded 28 crimes from these records but only recorded 7. The missing 21 crimes included offences against children and adults. The missing nine adult crimes included a rape, several assaults, a sexual assault, harassment and theft.

The missing 12 child crimes included a rape and a sexual assault, with the remainder being assaults. The missing assaults occurred on occasions when third party reports were made by professionals acting on behalf of the victims. The public protection staff determined that there would be no crime recorded until children’s social services had confirmed each crime. This does not comply with NCRS. This was further exacerbated as the force failed to ensure these matters were resolved by children’s social services, no crimes were recorded and no updates provided concerning what action was taken against the perpetrators.

The extent to which reports of crime received by public protection teams are not being recorded, and the seriousness of the risks associated with the under-recording of these reports of crime, are causes for concern.

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.

Improvements are required in the force’s recording of modern slavery crimes. We examined 15 modern slavery crimes; 11 were correctly recorded but 4 should not have been recorded at all. In addition, where the force was required to record other associated crimes, it had correctly recorded 3 but failed to record 14 other crimes including 11 rapes (included above) and 3 assaults.

We examined a further 20 reported incidents of modern slavery and assessed that 23 crimes should have been recorded and 17 had correctly been recorded. The missed crimes were two modern slavery crimes and four assaults.

The force works regionally, nationally and internationally in its efforts to tackle modern slavery. We found that officers and staff have a good, basic knowledge of modern slavery offences, of their respective responsibilities in recording such offences, and of where they can find further information.

Timeliness

Where the information obtained at the first point of contact is sufficient for a crime to be recorded this must be completed without delay, and in any case within 24 hours. We found that, of the reports of crime that had been recorded by Lincolnshire Police, 81 out of 98 reports of rape, 281 out of 468 reports of violent crime and 157 out of 256 sexual offences (excluding rape) had been recorded within 24 hours of receipt of the report.

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

We acknowledge that since our findings have been disclosed the force has responded positively to this issue. This has resulted in streamlined processes and there are now no backlogs, which in turn has improved timeliness of recording and ensured a quicker referral to Lincolnshire Victim Services.

Cancelled crimes

Where additional verifiable information (AVI) is obtained to show that a recorded crime did not occur, the crime record can be cancelled. We found that the force performed well in respect of rape cancellations but improvements are required in other areas.

We reviewed 21 cancelled recorded rapes, 20 violence crimes, 20 sexual offence crimes (excluding rape) and 6 robbery crimes. Of these, we found that the FCIR had correctly cancelled all 21 crimes of rape. This is outstanding. Other crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of designated decision makers (DDMs). The DDMs had correctly cancelled 17 out of 20 sexual offences, 15 out of 20 violence offences and 4 out of 6 robbery offences. Other than rape, crime cancellations must improve.

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 of the 58 victims who should have been informed of the transfer or cancellation, 44 had been. This is an area for improvement.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime 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 aware of its responsibilities under this code.

All victims whose reports of crime are recorded by Lincolnshire Police are offered the services of Victim Support and can receive the relevant information by text, email or letter. These communications contain information about individual victims’ cases and, in addition to directing them to these services, also provide them with details of other relevant organisations that can offer support.

Equality

We found that the force must improve 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. This will enable it 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 the force routinely records age and gender details as well as ethnicity in most cases if a crime is recorded. However, it only records other protected characteristics where these are determined to be relevant to the offence.

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 is, therefore, an area for improvement.

Officer and staff survey

We conducted a survey of officers and staff in Lincolnshire Police of their experience of crime recording. Some 232 respondents completed the survey. The results of this survey were mixed. Most confirmed that messages from chief officers and senior leaders were clear and there was no organisational pressure not to record crimes. Locally there was some pressure on officers not to record crimes due to an inability to effectively investigate and manage crimes.

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

graded good

We found that crime-recording expectations had been publicised to officers and staff by senior leaders. Messages to officers and staff were clear and unambiguous as reported during our survey and evidenced during our fieldwork.

We also found that most 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 all officers and staff. Importantly, the force needs to reinforce among officers and staff that all reports of crime must be recorded, even in cases where the victim chooses not to support an investigation or prosecution.

Progress has been made against the action plan developed by the national policing lead on crime statistics following our 2014 report, and which all forces have been asked to implement. However, the force has only satisfactorily completed and sustained two of the national recommendations, although it has completed both force recommendations we made in 2014. The lack of progress in this regard is negatively affecting efforts to improve crime-recording accuracy.

However, we conclude that under the leadership of the deputy chief constable there is a comprehensive action plan for improvement, crime recording features on the force register of risks, and governance is improving with crime recording featuring in many strategic and performance meetings. Since we informed the force of our audit findings it has responded positively.

We also conclude that audit results provided to senior leaders suggested that the force was recording more crimes than was the case. The reason for this is that the FCIR does not have the capacity to conduct audits to the standard and extent required.

The force has improved its use of out-of-court disposals (such as cautions or community resolutions). We were impressed with the process for monitoring all such disposals, including the use of independent scrutiny panels. Procedural documents are clear and concise; these ensure that considerations as to the suitability of the disposal for both the victim and offender are very good.

Conclusion

We conclude that Lincolnshire Police’s overall crime-recording arrangements are inadequate. The force also needs to address shortcomings in its auditing procedures and improve resilience in this area.

The senior leaders are determined to improve the accuracy of the force’s crime recording. We welcome the continuing efforts of the force to address the remaining gaps in its crime-recording arrangements identified in our inspection.

What next?

We expect the force urgently to make progress implementing recommendations and areas for improvement we set out in this report.

The serious causes of concern found during our inspection are such that we may re-visit the force in 2019 to assess progress.