The Metropolitan Police Service: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2018

Overall judgment

graded good

The Metropolitan Police Service has made concerted efforts to improve crime-recording accuracy since our 2014 crime data integrity inspection report. Importantly, we found a commitment to accurate crime recording that is victim-focused and free from performance pressures of any kind. We found the force:

  • achieves good levels of recording accuracy for reported sexual offences;
  • recorded all but one modern slavery offence reported to it and/or disclosed during investigations;
  • recorded all but three vulnerable victim crimes reported to its adult and child protection units;
  • has improved knowledge and understanding among its officers and staff of the crime-recording requirements for offences of stalking and harassment; and
  • has implemented all the recommendations set out in our 2014 report.

These are very encouraging findings. Nonetheless, based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 July 2017 to 31 December 2017, we estimate that the force fails to record over 94,500 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 89.5 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.64 percent). The 10.5 percent of reported crimes that went unrecorded are particularly affected by the under-recording of public order crime and low-level assaults where there is no injury to the victims. Further improvements are therefore required in these areas.

We believe that instances of crimes not being recorded generally occur when staff and officers do not recognise that a crime has been committed, or do not fully understand the need to record multiple offences disclosed during investigations.

Summary of inspection findings

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

  • developed a comprehensive action plan and implemented many positive changes during the intervening four years, under the leadership of a commander (who explicitly has crime recording within their portfolio) and small team;
  • improved knowledge and understanding of crime-recording requirements among officers and staff, particularly for crimes of stalking, harassment, malicious communications and cases where young people take and share indecent images of themselves;
  • improved supervision of its use of out-of-court disposals to ensure they are being used appropriately;
  • implemented an effective process for providing feedback to staff and officers who make poor crime-recording decisions;
  • developed and given training to address those areas where officers and staff regularly make the same crime-recording mistakes; and
  • implemented all the recommendations set out in our 2014 report.

We also found that the force crime registrar (FCR) – responsible for oversight and audit of crime-recording requirements – has completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and is now fully accredited for the role. The FCR is supported by a small team that undertakes regular audits of reported and recorded crime.

Despite these advances, the force’s crime-recording performance could be better in certain areas. The force is currently under-recording some:

  • violent crimes (including some arising from domestic abuse incidents);
  • public order crimes; and
  • offences against property (for example theft and damage).

The force must improve the recording accuracy of these reports.

We consider that failures generally occur when officers are required to attend an incident and make a crime-recording decision, or when other offences are disclosed during investigations into crimes already recorded.

Improvements are required in these areas.

We were impressed with the consistent and widespread use of feedback to officers and staff when they make an incorrect crime-recording decision. We found evidence of this from many quarters including the FCR, the MET communications command (METCC), crime management services (CMS), telephone and digital investigations unit (TDIU), multi-agency safeguarding hubs (MASHs), child abuse investigation teams (CAITs) and locally-based supervisors (called ‘grip and pace’ sergeants). Officers and staff provided positive evidence that this feedback is improving understanding of and compliance with the rules.

Areas for improvement

The force should immediately:

  • remind staff with crime-recording responsibilities of the need to record all crimes at the first point at which sufficient information exists to do so, particularly in domestic abuse cases;
  • ensure that all reported crimes of rape are recorded without delay;
  • ensure that classification N100 is used correctly;
  • ensure that reports of crime made by third parties acting on behalf of the victim in a professional capacity are recorded;
  • improve the process for cancelling crimes where additional verifiable information exists and ensure that all victims who have their crimes cancelled are informed of that fact;
  • ensure that crimes allocated for diary appointments are recorded at the point where sufficient information exists and in any event within 24 hours; and
  • improve how it collects diversity information from victims of crime and how it uses this to comply with its equality duty.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded good

Overall crime-recording rate

89.5% of reported crimes 
were recorded

Over 94,500 reports of crime a year 
are not recorded

The Metropolitan Police Service 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 80.6 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime-reporting route. This does not mean that 80.6 percent of crimes reported to the Metropolitan Police Service come through these routes but that 80.6 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 89.5 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.64 percent). We estimate the force is not recording over 94,500 reports of crime each year, thereby potentially depriving some victims of valuable support services. We acknowledge in arriving at this figure that the force serves a population of over 8.7 million people and recorded over 800,000 crimes in the 12 months to 31 December 2017.

Of the 1,396 reports of crime we audited, 271 were crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these the force had recorded 230. The 41 offences not recorded were mostly offences involving violence, such as actual bodily harm and common assault.

We found that some of these offences involved crimes being reported at the first point of contact with the force, but not being recorded due to the call handler wrongly categorising the matter as a domestic incident rather than a violent crime. Using the incorrect opening incident category also means that the incident is not scrutinised to ensure the correct crime-recording decision has been taken.

We also found that when crimes related to domestic abuse were not recorded, this was often because officers failed to record additional crimes disclosed during their investigations.

However, we found that when domestic abuse crimes had not been recorded, safeguarding requirements and an investigation had been undertaken in most cases. This is positive.

The under-recording of crime arising from public disorder and common assault is significant. When these are not identified and recorded as crimes at the earliest opportunity, there is invariably a lack of oversight to ensure that the correct crime-recording decisions are later taken.

Violence against the person

87.6% of reported violent crimes 
were recorded

Over 28,100 reports of violent crime a year 
are not recorded

We found that 87.6 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.82 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 28,100 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 particularly important.

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

  • the incorrect classification of crime-related incidents;
  • officers failing to record other crimes disclosed during their investigation;
  • a lack of understanding of common assaults where there was no injury or only the threat to use violence; and
  • a lack of effective oversight to ensure that the correct crime-recording decisions are later taken.

Victims of violent crime often require substantial support. This support should come not only from the force, but from other appropriate organisations 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 receiving no notification that a person has become a victim of violent crime. That in turn may deprive victims of the support they need and deserve.

Sexual offences

91% of reported sex offences 
were recorded

We found that the force records 91 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.89 percent). We estimate that this still means the force is not recording over 1,890 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

Improved force scrutiny of reports of sexual offences since our 2014 report has improved the recording rate for these offences. Nonetheless, we consider that the force could make further improvements in this area. Recording these offences is particularly important as many of these crimes are very serious in nature and cause significant harm to their victims.

We found that most unrecorded sexual offences occur when additional offences are disclosed during the investigation of already recorded crimes. This means that investigations and safeguarding requirements of the unrecorded crimes are taking place. However, recording such crimes has added importance for identifying perpetrators and challenging their behaviour. The force should improve the recording of offences disclosed during the course of an investigation and ensure the supervision of investigations includes consideration of the crime-recording requirements.

Rape

98 of 118 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 allows the force to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in its local area.

Of the 118 reports of rape that should have been recorded, we found 98 had been correctly recorded. Two of these were wrongly recorded as other serious sexual offences and two were not recorded due to victims subsequently refusing to confirm that they had been raped. One was recorded on a computer system as a concern for a vulnerable adult and one, an historic crime, was incorrectly notified by another police force which caused some confusion. That case has since been recorded fully and is under investigation. The remaining crimes were wrongly recorded as classification N100 (see below). This was due to a misunderstanding about the action to take when a professional third party or a victim with mental ill-health reports a crime. In the mental ill-health cases the officers took full details but, due to confusion and inconsistencies in the accounts given, wrongly believed that the classification N100 was appropriate. In fact a crime of rape should have been recorded from the outset.

We found that although the force may not always have recorded a crime, it provided support and safeguarding in all of these cases. This included referrals to partner organisations when appropriate. Proportionate investigations were carried out in all cases.

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

We found 48 incident reports for which the force should have applied an N100 classification, but it was only applied on 34 occasions. Separately, we also reviewed 20 sample records where an N100 classification had been applied. Among these, we found that 14 were correctly recorded and six should have been recorded as rapes from the start (included above).

Rape victims generally require significant support from the outset. Any delay in providing support can be detrimental both to the recovery of the victim and to any investigation. The force must improve its crime recording of reported rape. This includes the correct use of classification N100, particularly in cases where victims with mental ill-health have difficulties providing consistent, coherent reports of crime.

We found that some frontline officers, including some investigators, had no knowledge of N100 classifications. It is important the force improves its frontline officers’ and staff’s understanding of N100 classifications for it to satisfy itself fully that it always takes correct decisions to record rape.

We recognise the force already identified issues regarding rape crime recording and the use of classification N100 and has undertaken improvement work.

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

graded good

Crime reports held on other systems

36 of39 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

In order to be confident that vulnerable victims always receive the support they need, the Metropolitan Police Service provides a good service to victims. Most of the crimes reported directly to its public protection teams are recorded.

We examined 50 records on the force’s vulnerable victim system. Of these, we found that 39 crimes should have been recorded, of which 36 had been. There was one missing vulnerable child crime – a common assault – but the perpetrator had been arrested and dealt with. There were two missing vulnerable adult crimes: one where the perpetrator had been investigated and the second where the victim had suffered neglect in a care home. In all three cases, there were proportionate investigations and appropriate safeguarding was provided to the victims.

We were impressed with the knowledge and understanding of the need to record crimes which partners disclosed to public protection teams. This was particularly evident within the MASH and the CAIT where there was good evidence that the force works well with its partner organisations.

Modern slavery

Modern slavery is an important and recent addition to the crimes that forces must record and investigate. We therefore reviewed the recording of reports of these offences. We also examined the force’s understanding of the origin of such reports.

We found the force has good crime-recording arrangements for modern slavery crimes.

We examined 20 modern slavery crimes. Since many were duplicates, only nine crimes required recording and we found that they were all correctly recorded. Where the force was required to record other associated crimes, two were correctly recorded but one, a common assault, was missing.

In addition, we examined 20 modern slavery referrals and found that 11 out of 12 modern slavery crimes had been recorded correctly. Where the force was required to record other associated crimes, two were correctly recorded but one, a sexual assault, was missing. The victim of this crime was being safeguarded.

The force has an identified lead for modern slavery and works at force, regional, national and international levels with other forces, organisations and law enforcement institutions such as the National Crime Agency, Border Force and Interpol. In addition, two Romanian officers are in the force’s modern slavery and kidnap unit (MSKU). This is because of a particular problem with people from Roma communities becoming victims of exploitation by organised human trafficking groups. This is good practice. The MSKU takes responsibility for identifying which matters need to be recorded, and this has undoubtedly led to the good practice we found.

We found that officers and staff have an improving knowledge of modern slavery offences, and a good knowledge of their responsibility to record these offences and of where they can find further information.

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, 301 out of 459 reports of violent crime and 188 out of 325 sexual offences had been recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report.

The Metropolitan Police Service has a system whereby some reports of crime are determined to be suitable for a diary appointment. If this appointment will not take place within 24 hours, force policy is that the crimes should be recorded prior to being attended. We found that this is not always happening and so improvements are needed.

We note the force now creates crime records at the point of contact with the victim, in those matters which the telephone and digital investigation unit (TDIU) will proportionately investigate. We also note that the force intends to record all crimes at the point of contact where sufficient information exists and on the balance of probabilities a crime has been committed. These are welcome developments.

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 reviewed cancelled recorded crimes of rape, violence, sexual offences (excluding rape) and robberies. Of these, we found the FCR had correctly cancelled 18 out of 20 crimes of rape. Other crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of designated decision makers (DDMs). The DDMs had correctly cancelled 19 out of 20 sexual offences, 16 out of 20 violence offences and 17 out of 20 robbery offences.

The small number of incorrect cancellation decisions related to the absence of sufficient AVI to demonstrate that the crime did not occur. We found that some officers and investigators did not fully understand what amounted to AVI and were unclear about the necessary process.

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 not all victims who should have been informed of the transfer or cancellation had been.

These findings demonstrate that the while the force has an effective process for dealing with crime cancellations, improvements are still needed. The force should pay particular attention to understanding what amounts to AVI, and ensure that it informs victims if crimes are cancelled.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Document)provides clear guidance to police forces regarding the service that should be provided to all victims of crime. We have concluded that the force is aware of its responsibilities under this code.

All victims of crime whose reports are recorded by the force 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 the services of Victim Support, also provide details of other organisations that can help. Victim Support is also provided with the details of victims of crime to enable it to make direct contact with these victims.

In addition, officers complete a form with every victim which contains the basic details of the crime, contact details of the investigating officer and an agreed victim contact contract. This is good practice.

Equality

We found 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 them to identify any patterns which may exist between different community groups and their vulnerability to (or their relative likelihood to report) different types of crime.

We found that the force always records some equality information about victims, such as age and gender, but only records other protected characteristics when it determines them to be relevant to the offence.

So long as the force fails to routinely record such information, it will be unable to understand clearly whether its crime-recording decisions are consistent across different community groups. This is an area for improvement.

Officer and staff survey

We conducted a survey of officers and staff in the Metropolitan Police Service of their experience of crime recording. Some 1,035 respondents completed the survey. We were pleased to find that officers understand their responsibilities regarding ethical crime recording and that they are not under any pressure that prevents them from recording crimes when they should. Furthermore, the vast majority of respondents stated the chief officer team encourages officers and staff to challenge activities or behaviours that are unethical, unacceptable or unprofessional in respect of the recording of reported crime.

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 regarding crime recording in the Metropolitan Police Service is outstanding.

The force has strong, demonstrable leadership and a clear commitment to get crime recording right. We found good evidence that current arrangements in the force support accurate and timely crime recording. There are good interventions by the FCR, METCC, CMS, TDIU, CAIT, MASH, and ‘grip and pace’ sergeants to ensure that correct crime-recording decisions are made. The effectiveness of this feedback was impressive.

We found evidence of strong governance at senior level. There is an annual audit plan and regular audits are carried out in accordance with national guidance. The FCR and the senior responsible officer have regular meetings to discuss crime-recording audit findings, and these results are reported through regular performance meetings. Crime recording features on the force register of risks and is part of both strategic and local management meetings.

In particular, we were impressed by the commitment of the force to respond to our 2014 findings. A comprehensive action plan was immediately drawn together, and under the leadership of a commander and small team, huge efforts were made to improve the service provided to victims of crime. That is not easy in an organisation of such size and complexity. The force has implemented all of the recommendations made in our 2014 report, and in the national action plan developed by the national lead on crime statistics following our 2014 report.

We acknowledge the significant events which occurred during our audit period, including terrorism atrocities and the Grenfell Tower fire. It is to the credit of officers and staff that despite these events, they maintained a focus on providing a good service to other victims of crime.

Conclusion

The Metropolitan Police Service has made good progress in its crime-recording processes since 2014. The very strong leadership and positive approach among officers and staff toward victims is welcome.

Victims reporting crimes to the force should have confidence that their report will be taken seriously.

What next?

We expect the force to make progress against the areas for improvement we identify in this report. We will monitor this progress.

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