Norfolk Constabulary Crime Data Integrity inspection 2019

Overall judgment

graded requires improvement

Since our 2014 inspection, Norfolk Constabulary has made a concerted effort to record crime more accurately. We found that officers and staff have a greater understanding of the importance of crime recording standards and of putting the victim at the centre of their crime recording decisions.

We also found the force has:

  • created and implemented a crime data integrity (CDI) action plan to address our 2014 recommendations and areas for improvement;
  • recently introduced an investigation team which conducts initial investigations into incidents that don’t need attendance and records any associated crimes;
  • effective processes for identifying and recording modern slavery offences; and
  • implemented feedback processes, so officers and staff who make errors can learn the correct requirements for their future crime recording decisions.

Work remains to be done, however. We examined crime reports from 1 November 2018 to 30 April 2019. Based on this, we estimate that the force records 87.5 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.81 percent) of crimes reported to it. We estimate that the force fails to record over 8,700 reported crimes each year. The 12.5 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include sexual and violence offences. It is a cause of concern that the recording rate for violent crime is only 82.3 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.88 percent). And many of these unrecorded violent crimes are cases of domestic abuse.

These failures are due to officers and staff not fully understanding the crime recording rules. This is made worse by limited supervision to correct these decisions as soon as possible.

Summary of findings

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

  • provided crime recording training to designated decision makers (DDMs), new officers and control room staff;
  • improved supervision of out-of-court disposals, such as cautions and community resolutions;
  • implemented a flexible and risk-based audit programme;
  • used audit results to inform training and improve crime recording standards; and
  • implemented all the recommendations from our 2014 report.

The force crime registrar (FCR) and his deputy are responsible for oversight and audit of crime recording requirements. They have both completed a National College of Policing course for FCRs and are fully accredited for the role.

The force records rape crimes, and incidents requiring a Home Office classification N100, at first point of contact. But this isn’t the case for other reported crime types. Even when there was enough evidence to record a crime on first contact, in the vast majority of cases the recording was delayed until after an officer spoke to the caller personally. This is unnecessary and often inefficient. It leads to delays in recording crimes and too often means that reported crimes are not recorded at all. The force commonly doesn’t investigate these unrecorded crimes.

At the time of our inspection, we found a large backlog of crimes waiting for validation by the incident management unit (IMU). This leads to delays in the allocation of some crimes for investigation and risks a reduced level of service for some victims. The force had plans to address this backlog, but these plans were yet to be introduced.

Also, the force’s crime recording arrangements still need to improve in the following areas. It must:

  • make sure that all supervisors, officers and staff working in a crime recording role fully understand the crime recording rules, particularly for reports of common assault, harassment, malicious communications, coercive and controlling behaviour, and stalking;
  • make sure it always records reports of crime received from professional third parties;
  • improve understanding of N100 classifications among its control room staff;
  • record more crimes within 24 hours as required by the national crime recording standard;
  • make sure it informs victims if their crime is transferred to another force for investigation or is cancelled; and
  • improve how it collects equality information to help it understand and respond to the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within its communities.

We note that the force had identified some of these problems at the time of our inspection. To address them, it has recently introduced a crime data integrity quality assurance team (CDIQAT). The team consists of experienced officers and staff working in the force control room, who conduct ‘live time’ quality assurance of all violence incidents. It seeks to make sure that:

  • officers correctly identify and record all these crimes immediately after attendance; and
  • any errors are corrected at the earliest available opportunity.

When officers make mistakes, the CDIQAT has developmental conversations with them. This is to make sure they understand why corrections are needed and to prevent it happening again. The force has also developed a mandatory training package for all frontline sergeants, to improve supervisory oversight of crime recording standards and investigations. These are welcome developments.

Cause of concern

Norfolk Constabulary is failing to make sure it correctly records all violent crimes (which includes domestic abuse) reported to it. Officers and staff do not always fully understand and apply the crime recording rules when dealing with crimes like common assault, harassment, malicious communications, coercive and controlling behaviour, and stalking. There is also limited supervision to correct these recording decisions at the earliest opportunity.

Recommendations

The force should immediately:

  • take steps to identify and address gaps in its systems and processes for identifying and recording all reports of violent crimes (in particular those related to domestic abuse);
  • provide further crime recording training for all supervisors, officers and staff working in a crime recording role, to include the recording rules for common assault, harassment, malicious communications, coercive and controlling behaviour, and stalking; and
  • make sure that it adequately supervises all crime recording decisions made by officers and staff.

Areas for improvement

The force should immediately make sure that it:

  • reviews its backlog of crime records waiting for validation, acts appropriately to deal with the backlog, and validates records promptly in the future;
  • always records reports of crime received from professional third parties;
  • improves understanding of N100 classifications among its control room staff;
  • records more crimes within 24 hours as required by the national crime recording standard;
  • informs victims if their crime is transferred to another force for investigation or is cancelled; and
  • improves how it collects diversity information from crime victims and uses this to inform its compliance with its equality duty.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded inadequate

Overall crime recording rate

87.5% of reported crimes were recorded

The force must do more to make sure it records all crime reports 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 78.9 percent of crime it records (excluding fraud) comes through an auditable route. This doesn’t mean that 78.9 percent of crimes reported to Norfolk Constabulary come through these routes, but that 78.9 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 87.5 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.81 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording more than 8,700 reports of crime each year. This is not simply a failure of administration. In many of these cases victims are being deprived of the services they are entitled to, investigations are not taking place and offenders are not being brought to justice.

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

  • call handlers don’t always record on the incident log full details of their conversation with the person reporting a crime, so attending officers don’t have full information to make crime recording decisions;
  • officers and staff don’t always fully understand and apply changes made in April 2018 to the recording requirements for coercive and controlling behaviour, malicious communications, stalking and harassment;
  • officers and staff don’t always follow the crime recording rules for rapes, N100 classifications, non-injury assaults or reports received from third party professionals;
  • officers and staff don’t always record a proper explanation for why they haven’t recorded a crime;
  • when victims don’t wish to support an investigation, officers sometimes don’t record the crime; and
  • incident records that contain multiple reports of crime often result incorrectly in only one crime report being recorded.

Of the 1,333 reports of crime we audited, we assessed 417 as related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 326. The 91 missed crimes included:

  • 78 violent crimes,
  • three sexual offences; and
  • ten other crimes.

We found that the force had provided safeguarding to most of these victims. But its failure to record these crimes meant that it failed to investigate many of them.

Domestic abuse often involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to further offences being committed against them. So, it is vital that the force records such reports of crime and carries out a proportionate investigation.

Violent crimes

82.3% of reported violent crimes were recorded

Over 4,800 reports of violent crime a year are not recorded

We found that 82.3 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.88 percent). By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 4,800 violent crimes that are reported to it each year.

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

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

More than 93.6% of reported sex offences were recorded

The force records 93.6 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of 2.68 percent). This is a good standard of crime recording accuracy. We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 170 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

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

We found that the force had failed to record some reports of sexual offences against both adults and children. These included reports of sexual assault and of inciting children to engage in sexual activity. In all but two cases, these were from incidents involving multiple crime reports, which resulted incorrectly in only one crime being recorded.

Rape

89 of 97 audited rape reports were accurately recorded

Rape is one of the most serious crimes a victim can experience, so it is especially important that reports of rape are recorded accurately. It helps to make sure victims receive the service and support they deserve. And it helps the police identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area.

We found 97 reports of rape that should have been recorded and the force had correctly recorded 89 of these. Of the eight missed rapes:

  • three were incorrectly recorded as classification N100s (see below); and
  • five were reported as part of multiple crime incidents but were not recorded at all.

The force provided adequate safeguarding in five of these cases but only investigated four of them. Of the four cases it didn’t investigate:

  • one victim withdrew support for any further investigation;
  • one victim refused to confirm a crime of rape had occurred; and
  • in two cases the victims neither negated or confirmed the crimes.

The Home Office classification N100 was introduced in April 2015. Its purpose is to explain why reported incidents of rape or attempted rape, whether they are reported by victims, witnesses or third parties, haven’t immediately been recorded as a confirmed crime. This can include instances where additional information confirms the rape didn’t take place, or where the rape took place in another force area and was transferred to the relevant force to record and investigate.

We found 25 incident reports for which the force should have applied an N100 classification, but it only did so on 20 occasions. Separately, we also reviewed a sample of 19 records where it had applied an N100 classification. We found:

  • one that should have been recorded as a rape from the outset; and
  • two that should have been later converted into a recorded crime of rape but were not.

The FCR’s audit team reviews all such reports daily. We found that it often needs to take remedial action to make sure that they are recorded.

The force should improve understanding of N100 classifications among its control room staff. This is important for it to satisfy itself fully that it always makes correct crime recording decisions following a report of rape.

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

graded requires improvement

Crime reports held on other systems

47 of 51 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded


For vulnerable victims to get the support they need, it is important that crimes reported directly to public protection teams are always recorded.

The force has worked hard to make sure that staff working in the multi-agency safeguarding hub MASH understand their crime recording responsibilities. This includes referrals from other agencies, crimes disclosed during meetings or case conferences with third party professionals, and crimes identified during ongoing investigations.

The MASH has its own dedicated IMU. The unit quality assures all the crimes reported to the MASH to make sure that it correctly identifies and records them. This layer of scrutiny is good practice. It has allowed the force to identify and record some vulnerable victim crimes that it might otherwise have missed.

We examined 25 vulnerable victim adult records, 25 vulnerable victim child records and 12 email referrals received from other agencies. We found that the force should have recorded 51 crimes, of which it had recorded 47.

The four unrecorded crimes included:

  • one third-party report of common assault against an adult;
  • one common assault against a child; and
  • two crimes of making, taking and distributing indecent images of a child.

The unrecorded crimes involving child victims originated from reports containing multiple crimes. But the force only recorded one crime report in each case. It safeguarded the victims in all cases, but its failure to record these crimes meant it didn’t investigate any of them.

Modern slavery

Offences relating to modern slavery are an important and recent addition to the crimes that forces must record and investigate. So, we examined how well the force records reports of modern slavery offences. We also examined the force’s understanding of the origin of such reports.

We examined seven modern slavery records and found eight modern slavery crimes, two rapes and two other crimes that had all been correctly recorded. One crime of assault occasioning actual bodily harm was not recorded.

In addition, we reviewed 20 reports received through the modern slavery referral mechanism. We found that the force had recorded all 15 modern slavery crimes contained in these referrals. It also correctly recorded one rape and eight other crimes. However, six other crimes should also have been recorded but were not. The unrecorded crimes were five common assaults and one burglary.

Norfolk Constabulary has worked hard to improve its workforce’s knowledge and understanding of modern slavery. Training and information for officers dealing with modern slavery reports is easily accessible via the force intranet. And there are 41 trained modern slavery champions across the force who provide constant support to frontline officers.

Timeliness

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

We found that of the crimes Norfolk Constabulary had recorded, it had only recorded the following number within 24 hours of receiving the report:

  • 410 out of 534 violent crimes;
  • 159 out of 205 sexual offences; and
  • 271 out of 336 other offences.

Although some victims might be referred to support agencies in other ways, recording reported crimes late can lead to delays in referring victims to Victim Support. This is unacceptable, as some victims would benefit from the early support this team can give.

Cancelled crimes

If additional verifiable information shows that a recorded crime didn’t take place, the record can be cancelled. A recorded crime can also be cancelled when it was committed in another force area and is subsequently transferred.

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

We found that the FCR had correctly authorised 17 out of 20 cancelled offences of rape. DDMs are responsible for other crime cancellation decisions. They had correctly authorised the cancellation of:

  • 19 out of 20 sexual offences;
  • 21 out of 21 violence offences; and
  • 9 out of 11 robbery offences.

This is a good standard.

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 38 victims who should have been told of the transfer or cancellation, only 31 had been. So, this is an area for improvement.

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.

For victims in Norfolk, help is available from Norfolk and Suffolk Victim Care – a service commissioned by the police and crime commissioners for Norfolk and Suffolk and run by Victim Support. It provides free, confidential support to victims and witnesses of crime. When Norfolk Constabulary records crimes, it automatically refers all victims to Norfolk and Suffolk Victim Care unless they opt out of this service.

The force’s website provides details of a range of services and support agencies victims can contact for further advice and support.

Equality

We found that the force must improve the way it collects information about crimes affecting identifiable groups within communities.

Protected characteristics, such as gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, religion and age, don’t necessarily make someone more vulnerable to the risk of crime. However, it is important that the force records information about victims’ characteristics. This helps to identify any patterns between different groups and how vulnerable they are to (or how likely they are to report) different types of crime.

The force has introduced a recorded message which plays to victims when they call it on the non-emergency number 101. The message explains why this information is important and why victims may be asked to provide it.

The force routinely captures information on victims’ age, gender and ethnicity. But it only records disability, religion and sexual orientation if they are relevant to the crime itself.

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

Officer and staff survey

We carried out a survey of officers and staff in Norfolk Constabulary about their experience of crime recording. Some 287 respondents took part. We were pleased to find that most officers and staff are victim focussed and put the victim at the centre of their crime recording decisions. Most thought that the chief officer team clearly communicates the need for ethical crime recording. And most agreed that they understand crime recording to a level appropriate for their role.

Over three quarters of the respondents involved in recording crime said they had received crime recording training in the past two years.

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

graded outstanding

After our last CDI inspection of Norfolk Constabulary in 2014, the force began a drive to improve its crime recording across all departments and districts. It introduced an improvement plan, linked to a monthly CDI meeting chaired by an assistant chief constable. The deputy chief constable is the executive CDI lead.

The force has made concerted efforts to improve crime recording accuracy and has made progress against its CDI action plan. As a result, it has implemented all force specific and national recommendations from the 2014 inspection.

Messages from chief officers have been consistent and unambiguous. And officers and staff fully understand the importance of crime recording and the positive impact it can have on services to victims.

The force uses crime recording audit results to inform training and raise standards. It has also implemented feedback processes, so officers and staff who make errors can learn the correct requirements for their future crime recording decisions. This is good practice and demonstrates the force’s commitment to achieving further crime recording improvements.

However, despite these efforts the force has not achieved the level of improvement it wanted to. Chief officers are acutely aware that more work remains to be done. The force acknowledges that, in the past, it didn’t allocate enough resources to getting crime recording right or improving its crime recording performance.

The force understands that the IMU has a vital role in crime recording and is recruiting more staff into this unit to create enough capacity. The introduction of the CDIQAT is intended to make sure that crimes are correctly identified and recorded. This is a welcome addition.

We also note that the force has responded immediately to our audit by creating a new action plan to address the findings from this inspection.

Conclusion

The force has improved its crime recording since our 2014 inspection. But further improvements are still needed.

The leadership team in Norfolk Constabulary is clearly committed to good crime recording and the positive approach among officers and staff towards victims is welcome. However, the force needs to further improve its crime recording processes. It should also make sure that its staff and officers fully understand the crime recording rules, and that crime recording decisions are supervised effectively.

What next?

We note that after our audit, the force took immediate steps to retrospectively record all unrecorded crimes we found and to assess them for investigation. It also began work to identify how it could further improve its crime recording by investing in further crime recording training for all supervisors, officers and staff working in a crime recording role. We welcome this and will continue to monitor progress.

As with all police forces, we may carry out another unannounced crime data integrity inspection of this force at any time.