Nottinghamshire Police: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2018

Overall judgment

graded requires improvement

Nottinghamshire Police has made concerted efforts to improve crime-recording accuracy since HMICFRS’s 2014 crime data integrity inspection report. Importantly, we found an approach among officers and staff that places the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions.

We found the force has:

  • improved the supervision of out-of-court disposals;
  • developed and provided crime-recording training for officers, supervisors and staff involved in making crime-recording decisions;
  • high levels of recording accuracy for reported sexual offences;
  • good crime-recording arrangements in respect of modern slavery crimes;
  • fully implemented the recommendations set out in our 2014 report; and
  • made good progress against a national action plan developed to improve crime recording by police forces.

Despite these advances, the force is still failing some victims of crime. Based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 August 2017 to 31 January 2018, we estimate that the force fails to record over 13,800 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 87.3 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.80 percent). The 12.7 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include crimes such as violence offences and domestic abuse.

Incorrect recording decisions are often the consequence of officers and staff not understanding the crime-recording rules. We found that some officers and staff have an insufficient understanding of the crime-recording requirements for common assault, harassment, malicious communications and public order offences. This is particularly apparent among those officers and staff who have not recently received any crime-recording training. These errors are further compounded by limited supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Summary of inspection findings

The force has improved its crime-recording processes since our 2014 report. We found the force has:

  • introduced a telephone investigation team (CRIM) responsible for screening crimes that do not need officer attendance, then recording and investigating them;
  • provided crime-recording training for officers and staff who deal with vulnerable victims;
  • a centralised approval process in place for out-of-court disposals to ensure that national guidance is complied with;
  • improved the quality of its crime-recording data;
  • fully implemented the recommendations set out in our 2014 report; and
  • made good progress against a national action plan developed to improve crime recording by police forces.

The force crime registrar (FCR), responsible for overseeing crime-recording arrangements, has completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and is fully accredited for the role. The force has invested in a new national crime recording standard (NCRS) compliance team which will support the FCR and increase crime-recording timeliness and compliance.

Despite these advances, we found that response and neighbourhood teams had not recently received crime-recording training, resulting in frontline officers:

  • failing to identify and record violent crimes, including those arising from domestic abuse incidents such as common assault, harassment and malicious communications, and other crimes such as public order offences; and
  • not having a sufficient understanding of the standard of additional verifiable information (AVI) that is required to cancel a crime once it has been recorded.

We also found the force must:

  • increase the number of crimes it records within 24 hours of being reported; and
  • improve its collection of diversity information from victims of crime and how it uses this to comply with its equality duty.

Cause of concern

Nottinghamshire Police is failing to ensure it correctly records all violent crimes (in particular domestic abuse) reported to it. Officers and staff do not fully understand and apply the crime-recording rules when dealing with crimes such as harassment, malicious communications, common assault and public order offences. 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 that are domestic abuse-related);
  • ensure that adequate supervision is applied to all crime-recording decisions made by officers and staff; and
  • ensure that all identified crimes are recorded without delay and in any case within 24 hours.

Within three months the force should provide crime-recording training for frontline officers to include:

  • the crime-recording rules for common assault, harassment, malicious communications and public order offences; and
  • the standard of AVI that is required to cancel a recorded crime.

Areas for improvement

The force should immediately:

  • improve the understanding and use by its officers and staff of the N100 classification, for those reports of rape which are not immediately recorded as a crime; 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 requires improvement

Overall crime-recording rate

87.3% of reported crimes were recorded

Over 13,800 reports of crime a year are not recorded

The force must work to ensure it records all reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (PDF document) (HOCR).

We examined reports of crime which the force received, and for which an auditable record was created. The force informed us that 95.8 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) comes through an auditable route. This does not mean that 95.8 percent of crimes reported to Nottinghamshire Police come through these routes but that 95.8 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 87.3 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.80 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 13,800 reports of crime each year.

Of the 1,352 reports of crime that we audited, we assessed 346 to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 268. The 78 offences not recorded included 59 violent crimes, one sexual crime and 18 other crimes. Many of these were reported directly to the force but were not recorded. We found no clear evidence or rationale as to why they were not recorded as crimes.

In these cases, while the majority of the incident records made it clear that officers had considered safeguarding requirements, we found other incidents where this was not the case. However, we did find that despite the crimes not being recorded, an investigation proportionate to the circumstances was undertaken in most of these cases.

Under-recording crimes relating to domestic abuse incidents, and failure to provide a satisfactory service to some of these victims, are a cause of concern. This is because domestic abuse often involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to further offences being committed against them.

The force’s current domestic abuse policy and procedure sets out the circumstances when it is mandatory to complete a risk assessment for domestic abuse cases. We found that there is confusion among officers about whether and when to complete a risk assessment. In many of the cases where crime reports had not been recorded, a risk assessment had not been completed when it should have been.

We found that supervision of force crime-recording decisions requires improvement. In particular, we found:

  • some occasions where officers had completed inaccurate and incomplete risk assessments; and
  • prior to closing the incident logs, control room managers are not always applying adequate scrutiny to officer updates submitted in crime-related incidents, to satisfy themselves that crime-recording decisions are correct.

The force must improve crime recording in domestic abuse incidents. This will give it a greater understanding of domestic abuse crime in its communities. It will also mean that victims can have greater confidence in the response of the force when reporting these crimes.

Violence against the person

82.7% of reported violent crimes were recorded

Over 5,400 reports of violent crime a year are not recorded

We found that 82.7 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.02 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate detailed above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 5,400 violent crimes that are reported to it each year. As violent crime can be particularly distressing for the victim, and many of these crimes involve injury, 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 that:

  • some call handlers do not always record on the incident log full details of the conversation they had with the person reporting a crime;
  • dispatchers do not always pass all available information to attending officers, thereby making accurate crime-recording decisions difficult;
  • the updates and results from attending officers are not always recorded within incident logs with sufficient accuracy and detail;
  • some frontline officers and staff are still unsure of the basic crime-recording rules relating to common assault, harassment, malicious communications and public order offences;
  • following deployment to an incident, officers do not always record a comprehensive explanation for why a crime should not be recorded; and
  • there is limited supervision to correct these decisions at the earliest opportunity.

Victims of violence and serious violence often require substantial support. This should come from the reporting and investigating officers and other appropriate organisations, such as Victim Support. Under these circumstances, crime recording takes on a greater importance. Failing to record properly a violent crime can result in Victim Support not being notified that a person has become a victim of violence. That in turn deprives victims of the support they need and deserve.

Sexual offences

94.4% of reported sex offences were recorded

Over 190 reports of sex offences a year are not recorded

The force records 94.4 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.58 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 190 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

This recording rate illustrates the improved scrutiny given to reports of sexual offences since our 2014 report. This 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. We also found that in some cases frontline officers were not sure of the basic crime-recording principles and recording rules, including in relation to youth-produced sexual imagery.

Rape

87 of 94 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 helps to ensure victims receive the service and support they have a right to expect and deserve, and it allows the police to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area.

We found that 87 of the 94 reports of rape we examined had been correctly recorded. These included reports that originated on the force incident system, reports received directly by specialist officers from third-party professionals, and from a review of N100 records (see below).

We found that one of the missed crimes of rape was misclassified as incitement of a child and one attempted rape was misclassified as sexual assault. Two cases had N100s recorded instead. Of the remaining missed rape crimes, two were part of multiple reports of sexual crimes and one should have been recorded in addition to a modern slavery crime.

In three of these cases, there was no evidence of any safeguarding arrangements on the incident records. In two of these cases an investigation was not possible because the victims declined to support an investigation.

The force use of the Home Office classification N100 could be improved. Introduced in April 2015, the N100 is a record created to explain why reported incidents of rape or attempted rape, 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 19 reports for which the force should have applied an N100 classification. It was applied on eight of these occasions.

Separately, we also reviewed 20 sample records where an N100 classification had been used. We found that 16 N100s were correctly recorded. In addition, we found two N100s which were correctly turned into rapes and two N100s which should have been turned into rapes but were not.

The correct recording of a report of rape is essential. Victims will often require significant support from the outset. Any delay or failure to correctly record the crime can be detrimental to both the recovery of the victim and to any investigation.

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

graded requires improvement

Crime reports held on other systems

26 of 32 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

To be confident that vulnerable victims always receive the support they need, it is important that crimes reported directly to public protection teams are always recorded. We were pleased to find the force works hard to ensure this is the case.

We examined 25 vulnerable adults and 25 vulnerable child victim records. Overall, we found the force correctly recorded 26 out of 32 crimes we identified.

In the adult sample, 16 crimes should have been recorded. 14 were correctly recorded, including one rape. The missing crimes were one theft and one crime involving indecent pictures of children.

In the child sample, 16 crimes should have been recorded. 12 were correctly recorded, including two rapes. The four missed crimes were all common assaults.

We found that victims had received support through the force safeguarding arrangements in all of these cases. However, the four crimes missed from the child sample were not investigated because the crimes were not identified or recorded.

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.

Overall, officers and staff demonstrate a good understanding of recording modern slavery crimes. We examined 19 modern slavery crime records and identified that 18 of these were correctly recorded. In addition, four rapes linked to these reports were correctly recorded. However, four other crimes linked to these reports were not recorded; these were one rape and three assaults. We also identified one modern slavery crime which had been incorrectly recorded as a kidnap/false imprisonment and another that was over-recorded (duplicated).

We also examined 21 modern slavery source records and found that eight modern slavery crimes and one rape crime were correctly recorded. However, one crime of assault was not recorded.

The force has a dedicated modern slavery team which is responsible for scrutinising all reports of modern slavery that come into the force. It has an effective process for dealing with reports of modern slavery that it receives via the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).

Timeliness

Where the information obtained at the first point of contact satisfies the national crime recording standard, the expectation is that identified crimes will be recorded without delay and in any case recorded within 24 hours.

We found that, of the reports of crime that had been recorded by Nottinghamshire Police, only 373 out of 486 reports of violent crime, 162 out of 237 sexual offences and 342 out of 399 other offences had been recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report.

While some victims may be referred to support organisations by other means, the late recording of reported crimes is leading to delays in the referral of victims to Victim Support. As some victims would benefit from the early support this team can provide, this is unacceptable.

The force recognises there is a lack of consistency in ensuring that incidents are reviewed to ensure crimes are recorded without delay. It has already taken action to address this through the new NCRS compliance team. This should ensure that in the future crimes will be recorded without delay and within 24 hours of the receipt of the report. This is welcome.

Cancelled crimes

Where additional verifiable information (AVI) is obtained to show that a recorded crime did not occur, the record can be cancelled. The force operates a system whereby only the FCR and the designated decision makers (DDMs) in his team can cancel recorded crimes. We found these arrangements to be effective.

We reviewed a sample of cancelled recorded crimes of rape, other sexual offences, violence and robbery. We found the FCR had authorised correctly the cancellation of all 16 offences of rape and the DDMs had authorised correctly the cancellation of 11 out of 13 sexual offences, 12 out of 13 violence offences and all 11 robbery offences.

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 39 victims who should have been told of the transfer/cancellation, 36 were told of the decision.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

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

All victims of crime whose reports are recorded by Nottinghamshire Police are automatically referred to Victim Support within two days, unless they opt out of the service. The exceptions to this are victims of domestic violence or sexual offences; in these cases they are required to give their consent to a referral to Victim Support or other relevant organisation. Victims will then be contacted to discuss what support is available to them. Therefore, the recording of reported crime is important to ensure victims are not denied access to these services.

Equality

HMICFRS found that the force must improve 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 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 information on the age, gender and ethnicity of victims in most cases, but information on the disability, religion, and sexual orientation of victims is not routinely recorded, unless it is a feature of the crime itself.

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 Nottinghamshire Police of their experience of crime-recording. Some 316 respondents completed the survey. We were pleased to find that the vast majority of respondents understood the crime-recording process and believed that the chief officer team clearly communicates the need for ethical crime recording. Just over half the respondents understood the changes made by the force since our 2014 inspection, and improvement in the force’s approach to crime-recording.

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

graded good

Overall, we found good leadership from senior officers regarding crime-recording expectations, and an approach among most officers and staff that places the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions.

The force has a comprehensive crime data integrity (CDI) audit plan and the FCR believes there will be sufficient capacity in the new NCRS compliance team to improve crime recording across the force.

The FCR has access to and feels fully supported by the chief officer responsible for CDI, who in turn provides governance and oversight of CDI through an information management board. At these meetings issues relating to CDI, including the results of crime audits, are shared with senior staff. They in turn follow up any further actions as required. CDI-related messages are also shared with officers and staff by the force corporate communications department. This means that lessons learned are shared across the force and identified risks to the quality of CDI are mitigated.

The force recognises that there is a lack of accountability for crime-recording decisions at a local level and is addressing this in conjunction with a force-wide data quality campaign. In addition, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has recently commissioned a leadership programme aimed at sergeants and above. This will include information as to their responsibilities in regard to crime recording. This is welcome.

The force has implemented all of the local recommendations made in our 2014 report and has also made good progress against a national action plan developed to improve crime recording and which all forces have been asked to implement.

Conclusion

Nottinghamshire Police has made progress in its crime-recording processes since 2014. It continues to work on further improvements, particularly in recording accurate details for victims of violent crime, including domestic abuse.

HMICFRS welcomes the continuing efforts of the force to address the remaining gaps in the crime-recording arrangements identified in this inspection.

What next?

HMICFRS expects the force to make progress implementing recommendations and areas for improvement we make 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.