Northamptonshire Police Crime Data Integrity inspection 2020

Overall judgment

graded good

Since our 2014 inspection, Northamptonshire Police has made changes to its systems and processes to improve crime recording. These changes, supported by relevant training and messages from the force crime and incident registrar (FCIR) and his deputy, have improved the crime recording standards the force is achieving.

We also found the force has:

  • trained staff in its crime management unit (CMU) to make sure they understand the national crime recording standard and Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR);
  • trained staff in the force contact room (FCR) to make sure that they record crimes at first point of contact most of the time;
  • introduced an initial investigation team (IIT), which investigates incidents that don’t need to be attended and records any associated crimes;
  • a telephone response team (TRT), which provides appointments by telephone;
  • effective processes to identify and rectify incorrect crime recording decisions through the CMU and the force audit team; and
  • provided training and introduced effective processes to make sure it identifies and records modern slavery offences.

We examined crime reports from 1 June to 30 November 2019. Based on this, we estimate that the force records 92.0 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.55 percent) of crimes reported to it. We estimate that the force fails to record over 5,300 reported crimes each year.

The force acknowledges that it still has more work to do. It recognises that it still doesn’t always make the correct crime recording decisions. And it must work to:

  • make sure frontline staff’s initial crime recording decisions are correct;
  • make sure all staff who make crime recording decisions have enough training, particularly on offences such as stalking, harassment and malicious communications;
  • clarify the roles and responsibilities in the FCR, IIT and TRT, as some officers and staff are confused about them;
  • improve how it quality assures crime recording in the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) and adult protecting vulnerable persons (PVP) department; and
  • improve its recording of domestic abuse-related crimes.

Summary of findings

The force has improved its crime recording accuracy since our 2014 report and overall is achieving a good recording standard.

We found it has:

  • provided crime recording training to new officers and those who make crime recording decisions, such as call handlers and CMU staff, which has helped to improve its standards;
  • implemented an effective audit schedule, which is regularly reviewed by senior managers and provides confidence that its improvements can be maintained; and
  • completed most of the national and Northamptonshire-specific recommendations from our 2014 report.

Northamptonshire Police has an FCIR and a deputy who are responsible for overseeing and auditing crime recording requirements. The FCIR has completed a national College of Policing course for FCIRs and is fully accredited for the role. The deputy is in the process of becoming accredited.

Despite these advances, the force needs to:

  • provide training to all officers and staff working in a crime recording role, particularly those in the MASH. This training should convey how important crime recording is, particularly in cases involving domestic abuse;
  • improve how it oversees public protection records, to make sure it identifies and records reported crimes;
  • improve its collection of equality information, to help it understand and respond to the effect of criminality on identifiable groups in its communities; and
  • improve how it identifies and records reports of crime it receives from professional third parties, particularly through the MASH.

The force should immediately:

  • review its operating arrangements to make sure it records all reported crimes, without first carrying out an investigation to prove or disprove the report;
  • make sure all officers and staff understand the crime recording roles and responsibilities of its call handlers, IIT and TRT;
  • provide training in the HOCR for all officers and staff who make crime recording decisions, particularly those working on the front line and in the MASH;
  • introduce effective oversight of public protection referrals into the MASH and adult PVP department, to make sure it identifies and records reports of crime; and
  • improve how it collects diversity information from crime victims and uses this to inform its compliance with its equality duty.

Read the full 2014 report (PDF document)

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded good

Overall crime recording rate

92.0% of reported crimes were recorded

The force has made good progress with its processes, ensuring it now records more reports of crime in accordance with the HOCR (PDF document). We examined reports of crime which the force received, and for which it had created an auditable record. The force told us that 96.7 percent of crime it records (excluding fraud) comes through an auditable route. This doesn’t mean that 96.7 percent of crimes reported to Northamptonshire Police come through these routes, but that 96.7 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 92.0 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.55 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording more than 5,300 reports of crime each year.

We found that the CMU’s quality assurance and oversight of crime recording decisions was effective. In most cases where the force still doesn’t record crimes, this is because:

  • officers and staff don’t always fully understand and apply changes made in April 2018 to the recording requirements for malicious communications, stalking and harassment offences; and
  • frontline staff sometimes fail to identify crimes reported by people with mental health problems.

Of the 1,205 reports of crime that we audited, we assessed 283 as related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 241. The 42 offences not recorded included:

  • 33 violent crimes;
  • one sexual offence; and
  • eight other crimes.

Most of the unrecorded domestic abuse crimes involved harassment, stalking or coercive and controlling behaviour. This reflects the lack of knowledge of these subjects among the workforce, particularly in the MASH and on the front line. Wrongly, officers and staff often expect the CMU to record these types of crime when necessary. The force didn’t provide safeguarding to some of these domestic abuse victims. And it didn’t investigate many of the unrecorded crimes at all.

We were pleased to find that the force had already identified these problems. It is addressing them by sending guidance to officers and is planning further training.

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.

Violence crimes

89.2% of reported violent crimes were recorded

Over 2,600 reports of violent crime a year
are not recorded

We found that 89.2 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.69 percent). By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 2,600 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 and malicious communications.

Victims of violent crime often need a lot of support. This should come from the force, and other appropriate agencies such as ‘Voice’ the victim support service provider within Northamptonshire. 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

96.2% of reported sex offences were recorded

The force records 96.2 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of 1.96 percent). This is a good standard of crime recording accuracy. We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 90 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

This recording rate shows the close attention the force gives to reports of sexual offences. It makes sure 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.

Rape

78 out of 84 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 84 reports of rape that the force should have recorded, and it had correctly recorded 78 of these. Of the unrecorded rapes, four were incorrectly recorded as N100s instead (see below). The other two were from a single incident. The force should have recorded three rapes from this incident but had only recorded one N100. However, it had carried out an investigation and safeguarded the victims in all these cases.

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 ten incident reports for which the force should have applied an N100 classification. It did so on eight occasions. Separately, we also reviewed 18 sample records where it had applied an N100 classification. As mentioned above, we found four cases in this sample that should have been recorded as rapes from the outset.

Read the full 2014 report (PDF document)

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

graded requires improvement

Crime reports held on other systems

33 out of 39 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 needs to improve how it identifies and records these crimes.

The force’s MASH works alongside, and in the same place as, the local authority children’s services and the health service. The MASH only deals with vulnerable child victims of crime. Separately, an adult PVP department deals with vulnerable adult victims.

We examined 25 vulnerable victim adult records and 25 vulnerable victim child records. We found that the force should have recorded 28 crimes, of which it had recorded 26.

The two unrecorded crimes were both sexual offences from the same record.

We also examined 20 email professional third party referrals. We found 11 crimes that should have been recorded, but only seven were. The unrecorded crimes were:

  • one sexual assault;
  • two crimes of sexual activity with a child; and
  • one common assault.

At the time of inspection, the force’s own internal audits had already found that officers and staff in the MASH didn’t always identify and record reported crimes. So this has improved during the past six months. But the force still needs to improve how it identifies crimes from vulnerability records that officers complete. Many officers still rely on the specialists in the MASH and PVP department to identify and record crimes on their behalf, based on these records.

The FCIR has provided advice and crime recording briefings to some staff to address this. However, many of the staff in the MASH and PVP department haven’t had any recent crime recording training. And there isn’t enough scrutiny of crime recording decisions. This needs to improve.

Modern slavery

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

We examined 20 reports received through the modern slavery referral mechanism and found six modern slavery crimes. The force had correctly recorded all of them. It should also have recorded two other crimes but had only recorded one. The unrecorded offence was of causing prostitution.

In addition, we reviewed 19 other reports of modern slavery and found that 28 out of 29 crimes were recorded correctly. The unrecorded offence was of sexual activity with a child.

The force has worked hard to improve its workforce’s knowledge and understanding of modern slavery. Information resources are easily accessible, and officers have received training on modern slavery. This is welcome.

Timeliness

If the information that 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.

We found that of the reports Northamptonshire Police had recorded, it had recorded the following number within 24 hours of receiving the report:

  • 342 out of 438 violent crimes;
  • 183 out of 256 sexual offences; and
  • 301 out of 349 other offences.

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

Northamptonshire Police needs to improve how quickly it records crimes. Although it records many crimes at the first point of contact, there are delays in recording many others. Sometimes, it doesn’t record reported crimes at the first point of contact despite having enough information to do so. This is because despatchers, who often schedule appointments for officers to speak to victims later, aren’t trained to record crime.

Many officers and staff are confused about the different roles and responsibilities of the FCR, IIT and TRT. This leads to reported crimes not being recorded by these officers and staff, or by anyone else.

Also, many crimes aren’t recorded as soon as possible because the initial crime recording decisions are wrong. This creates a delay in recording until the CMU later reviews the incident.

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 FCIR had correctly authorised all 20 cancelled offences of rape. Designated decision makers (DDMs) are responsible for other crime cancellation decisions. The DDMs had correctly authorised the cancellation of:

  • 18 out of 20 sexual offences;
  • 18 out of 20 violence offences; and
  • all nine robbery offences.

This is a very 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 19 victims who should have been informed of the transfer or cancellation, 17 had been.

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.

When Northamptonshire Police records a crime, it asks the victims if they are happy for it to pass their details to Victim Support. If they agree, the police pass their details on accordingly.

Victim Support offers free, confidential, face‐to‐face support to people who have been victims of crime or are afraid of someone. Victims can contact a member of Victim Support staff directly by telephone or email for one‐off advice or continuing support.

Equality

We found that the force records some equality information when recording crimes, but needs to do so on a more consistent basis.

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 routinely records information on victims’ age, ethnicity, nationality and gender, but not on disability or sexual orientation. It can only get this information from the narrative or audio recording of the call when the victim happens to disclose it.

The force uses the information it records to understand how crime affects identifiable groups in the community. But if it fails to record all such information, it won’t be able to fully understand and respond to the effect of crime on all identifiable groups. So, this is an area for improvement.

Officer and staff survey

We carried out a survey of officers and staff in Northamptonshire Police about their experience of crime recording. Some 173 respondents took part. We were pleased to find that most agreed the chief officer team clearly communicates the need for ethical crime recording. But respondents’ knowledge of their own crime recording responsibilities was inconsistent.

Read the full 2014 report (PDF document)

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

graded good

After our 2014 inspection, Northamptonshire Police began a programme to improve its crime recording across all departments and districts. At first its improvements were slow, but in the past year it has made more of an effort. The deputy chief constable is the executive lead for crime recording and has produced an informational video for officers. Crime recording features on the force risk register. And it regularly appears in a monthly internal briefing called ‘Crime matters’.

The force has made progress against its crime data integrity action plan to address both the Northamptonshire-specific and national recommendations from our 2014 inspection. In particular, it has focused on recording crime at first report and on quality assuring records in its back office. Its improved compliance rate is proof of the progress it has made.

There are a range of governance arrangements that consider crime recording issues. These include:

  • a service improvement board;
  • a force strategic board; and
  • improving investigations meetings.

The FCIR and his deputy are fully supported by the chief officers. They are empowered to make the necessary decisions to maintain and further improve crime recording.

However, a small number of officers and staff take an ‘investigate to record’ approach. This is where officers seek to prove or disprove a report before they make a crime recording decision. This goes against the general principles of crime recording and is an area for immediate improvement.

Read the full 2014 report (PDF document)

Conclusion

The force has made good progress in improving its crime recording since our 2014 inspection. But further improvements are still needed.

The leadership team in Northamptonshire Police is clearly committed to good crime recording. This has made sure that more victims receive the service they are entitled to and can access support and safeguarding where needed.

We are confident that the force’s leadership and governance arrangements will enable it to address the remaining areas for improvement identified in this inspection.

What next?

We welcome the steps taken by Northamptonshire Police to improve its crime recording arrangements. We expect the force to continue to make progress and to build on its improvements made so far. We will monitor this progress.

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

Read the full 2014 report (PDF document)