South Yorkshire Police: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2018

Overall judgment

graded requires improvement

South Yorkshire Police has made concerted efforts to improve crime-recording accuracy since our 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report. Importantly, we found a commitment to crime recording that is victim-focused and no evidence of any performance pressures in respect of crime recording.

We found the force has:

  • identified and assessed crime data integrity risks which it includes on its risk register and monitors quarterly to ensure progress with actions identified to mitigate these risks;
  • developed and given crime-recording training for force crime bureau staff and operational supervisors across the force;
  • highly-accurate recording of reported sexual offences;
  • good crime-recording arrangements in respect of modern slavery crimes;
  • fully implemented most of 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 June 2017 to 30 November 2017, we estimate that the force fails to record over 17,000 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 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 do not understand well enough crime-recording requirements for common assault, harassment, malicious communications and public order offences. These officers and staff have not recently received any crime-recording training, so this is an area for improvement. 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. In particular, we found the force has:

  • created a resolution and investigation team (the crime support hub) which scrutinises initial crime-recording decisions that do not require an immediate police response;
  • good governance and process arrangements for out-of-court disposals which ensure correct and appropriate use and that victim and offender suitability are both main considerations;
  • improved its decision making when considering whether to cancel a recorded crime;
  • fully implemented most of 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 oversight of crime-recording arrangements, has completed the College of Policing’s national training on crime recording, and is fully accredited for the role. Her work is supported by a small audit and governance team.

Despite these advances, the force’s performance in respect of crime recording must improve in the following areas:

  • Frontline officers are 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.
  • Some officers and staff do not understand the crime-recording rules for professional third-party reporting of crimes.
  • Incidents which other organisations (public, voluntary or private sector) have disclosed directly to public protection teams, and which amount to a crime in law, are not always recorded as such.
  • Late recording of reported crimes is leading to delays in the referral of victims to Victim Support
  • The force’s system for giving feedback to officers and staff on their crime-recording decisions is not correcting enough of these decisions.
  • The force diary appointment service is causing unacceptable delays in recording crimes.
  • The force must improve how it collects diversity information from victims of crime and groups within communities, and how it uses this to inform its compliance with its equality duty.

Improvements are required in all these areas.

Cause of concern

South Yorkshire Police is failing to ensure it records all crimes reported directly to its public protection departments. Officers and staff do not fully understand and apply the crime-recording rules in relation to professional third-party reports. Limited supervision means the force is not correcting these recording decisions at the earliest opportunity.

Recommendations

The force should immediately:

  • remind all officers and staff working in its public protection units of the requirement to:
    • record all crimes initially identified, and those that are disclosed during their investigations, onto the force crime-recording system; and
    • correctly apply the crime-recording rules to professional third-party reporting of crimes; and
  • develop and implement procedures for the effective supervision of crime-recording decisions made by officers and staff within the public protection units.

Areas for improvement

The force should immediately:

  • take steps to identify and address gaps in its systems and processes for identifying and recording all reports of crime related to domestic abuse;
  • ensure that it supervises adequately all crime-recording decisions made by officers and staff
  • provide crime-recording training for frontline officers, to include the crime-recording rules for common assault, harassment, malicious communications and public order offences;
  • improve its feedback processes to ensure that it makes all officers and staff aware of lessons learned regarding crime-recording decisions;
  • improve supervision and management of its appointment system to minimise delays to crime-recording decisions;
  • ensure that all identified crimes are recorded without delay and in any case within 24 hours; and
  • improve how it collects diversity information from victims of crime and how it uses this to inform its compliance 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 17,000 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).

The force informed HMICFRS that 96.7 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) comes through an auditable route. This does not mean that 96.7 percent of crimes reported to South Yorkshire Police come through these routes but that 96.7 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We examined reports of crime which the force received, and for which an auditable record was created. We found that the force recorded 89.5 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.64 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording in excess of 17,000 reports of crime each year.

Of the 1,374 reports of crime that we audited, we assessed 290 to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 228. The 62 offences not recorded included 47 violent crimes, one of which was a serious assault and one an attempted serious assault. Many of these were reported directly to the force but were not recorded. We found no clear evidence or rationale why they were not recorded as crimes.

While some incident records made it clear that officers had considered safeguarding requirements, we found other incidents where this was not the case. Also, the absence of a crime record in many of these cases resulted in these crimes not being investigated.

We also found occasions where officers had not completed a risk assessment. Where risk assessments had been completed, some were poor even though they should be reviewed by first line supervisors.

We found that supervision of force crime-recording decisions requires improvement. In particular, communication centre staff are not adequately scrutinising all crime-related incidents to satisfy themselves that crime-recording decisions are correct.

Domestic abuse often involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to further offences being committed against them. The force must improve crime recording in domestic abuse incidents so it understands more about domestic abuse crime in its communities, and victims are more confident in the force’s response when they report these crimes.

Violence against the person

86.4% of reported violent crimes 
were recorded

Over 5,900 reports of violent crime a year 
are not recorded

We found that 86.4 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.83 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 5,900 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 frontline officers and staff in the force crime bureau are still unsure of basic crime-recording rules relating to common assault, harassment, malicious communications and public order offences;
  • following a deployment to an incident, officers do not always record a comprehensive explanation for why a crime should not be recorded;
  • 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 is even more important. 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

96.7% of reported sex offences 
were recorded

Over 130 reports of sex offences a year 
are not recorded

We found that the force records 96.7 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.78 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 130 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

This is a significant improvement since our 2014 report findings. This is particularly important as many of these crimes are very serious in nature and cause significant harm to their victims.

Nevertheless, the force failed to record 13 sexual offence crimes, most of which were a variety of sexual offences against children.

The force has effective processes and good oversight which ensures reports of sexual offences that are received directly into the force crime bureau (FCB) are recorded as crimes. Additionally, the FCB scrutinises all sexual incidents, and the FCR and her audit team carry out regular audits of sexual incidents. This is good practice.

Rape

95 of 100 audited rape reports were accurately recorded

Rape is one of the most serious sexual offence crimes a victim can experience. Therefore, 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 95 of the 100 reports of rape we examined had been correctly recorded. These include 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 two of the missed crimes of rape were domestic cases, both incorrectly classified as common assaults. Two cases had an additional offender but only one crime was recorded in each case. The final missed rape crime should have been recorded in addition to a modern slavery crime and relates to a case where a trafficked female was forced into prostitution in Sheffield.

Despite this, in all these cases, victims had received support through the force safeguarding arrangements. In two of these cases an investigation was not possible because the victims declined to support an investigation.

The force also made proper use of the Home Office classification N100. 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 23 reports where the force should have applied an N100 classification. It was applied on 16 of these occasions. Five of the missing N100s should have been recorded in addition to modern slavery crimes. Separately, we reviewed 20 sample records where an N100 classification had been used, and found 19 N100s that were correctly recorded. There were also three N100s that were over-recorded.

As with other sexual offences, correct recording of a report of rape is important. Victims generally require significant support from the outset. Any delay in providing support can be detrimental to the recovery of the victim and to any investigation. It is therefore to the credit of the force that its crime-recording arrangements for these offences are sound.

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

graded requires improvement

Crime reports held on other systems

15 of 28 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

For South Yorkshire Police to be confident that vulnerable victims always receive the support they need, the force must improve its recording of crimes reported directly to its public protection teams and those included in referrals received from partner organisations. It must ensure that officers and staff working in the public protection units fully understand and correctly apply the crime-recording rules in relation to professional third-party reports.

We examined 50 vulnerable victim records. Of these, we found that 28 crimes should have been recorded, of which 15 had been. The missing 13 crimes included offences against both children and adults, most of which were professional third-party reports. Despite these crimes not being recorded, we found that victims had received support through the force’s safeguarding arrangements in all but one of these cases. However, the force did not investigate most of these missed crimes because it had not identified and recorded them.

Offences reported through this route are often high risk. We found a high number of crimes that had gone unrecorded. This is a cause of concern given the vulnerability of the victims.

We note that the force has responded immediately to our findings and has commissioned its own internal review of vulnerable victim records so that it can address the concerns we have raised in this report. This is reassuring.

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, apart from the rule that any rape reported abroad must be recorded as N100/3. Of the 20 modern slavery crime records we examined, all were correctly recorded. In addition, 3 rapes and 3 common assaults were also recorded correctly. The missed crimes were 1 rape, 1 common assault and 1 sexual assault.

We also examined 20 other modern slavery reports and found that of the 4 crimes that should have been recorded, 3 were. The correctly-recorded crimes were 1 modern slavery, 1 cannabis production and 1 burglary. The missed crime was a modern slavery crime.

The force has a modern slavery co-ordinator. It also has a dedicated anti-slavery unit 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).

This is good practice.

Timeliness

Where the information obtained at the first point of contact satisfies the national crime recording standard, Home Office Counting Rules require that identified crimes be recorded without delay and in any event within 24 hours of receipt of the incident report.

We found that, of the reports of crime that South Yorkshire Police had recorded, only 362 out of 478 reports of violent crime, 275 out of 297 sexual offences and 371 out of 414 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 delay in recording a reported crime also delays the referral of the victim to Victim Support. As some victims would benefit from the early support that Victim Support can provide, these delays are unacceptable.

We found crime-recording delays were caused by backlogs in the force crime bureau, which was under-resourced during the period of our incident and crime audit. The force has since resolved this, but must ensure that it records crimes without delay. This is therefore an area for improvement.

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 a sample of cancelled recorded crimes of rape, other sexual offences, violence and robbery. We found that the FCR had authorised correctly the cancellation of 19 out of 20 offences of rape and the DDMs had authorised correctly the cancellation of 19 out of 20 sexual offences, 19 out of 20 violence offences and 10 out of 12 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 34 victims who the force should have told of the transfer/cancellation, it told 30. The force needs to ensure that it informs all victims of its decision to cancel a crime if it is transferred to another force for investigation or if it is cancelled because AVI has been provided to cancel the crime.

These findings demonstrate that the force has a robust system for dealing with crime cancellations.

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.

When victims report a crime to South Yorkshire Police they are automatically referred to Victim Support unless they opt out of the service or they are victims of domestic violence or sexual offences when they are required to give their consent to any referrals to Victim Support or any other relevant organisations. Victims will then be contacted within 24 hours to discuss what support they require.

In addition, officers complete a leaflet which provides information about what happens when South Yorkshire Police is dealing with a victim, the support they are entitled to, and useful contact details of other supporting organisations that can provide additional support if required. This is good practice.

Equality

We 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 age and gender details as well as ethnicity in most cases if a crime is recorded, but only records other protected characteristics where it determines these to be relevant to the offence.

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 South Yorkshire Police of their experience of crime recording. Some 213 respondents completed the survey. We were pleased to find that most of the respondents believed that the chief officer team clearly communicates the need for ethical crime recording and doing the right thing for the victim. Just over half the respondents understood the changes the force made since our 2014 inspection, and that the force’s approach to crime recording had improved or significantly improved.

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

graded good

Overall, we found that senior officers in South Yorkshire Police clearly communicate the crime-recording standards they expect of officers and staff.

We found an approach among most officers and staff that is victim-focused with a positive attitude to crime recording. We found no evidence of any adverse cultural practices within the force and no evidence of any performance pressures in respect of crime recording.

The force has a well-established crime data integrity (CDI) monitoring group which provides strong governance of CDI matters and crime-recording improvements. An assistant chief constable chairs this group.

The force also monitors CDI at its monthly force performance meeting, which the deputy chief constable chairs.

The force has a risk-based CDI audit plan. The FCR uses the HMICFRS CDI audit methodology to carry out bi-monthly, quarterly and annual force audits. This is good practice.

The force has made good progress implementing changes recommended in our 2014 report, and as a result has completed eight out of ten of these recommendations. The two outstanding recommendations are:

  • The force has not yet completed a crime-recording training needs analysis and developed a training programme for all officers and staff involved in making crime-recording decisions. This remains an area for improvement.
  • The force decided not to commission an independent review of its standalone public protection system to identify and record missed crimes. This system is no longer used and all public protection crimes are now recorded on a new integrated crime recording system. HMICFRS has not examined this new system so cannot comment on its effectiveness in regard to crime recording.

The force has also made sound progress against the national action plan, developed by the national lead on crime statistics following our 2014 report and which all forces have been asked to implement.

Conclusion

South Yorkshire Police has made progress in its crime-recording processes since 2014 and continues to work on further improvements, particularly to the accuracy of its crime recording for vulnerable adult and child victims of crime and violent crime.

We welcome South Yorkshire Police’s continuing efforts to address the remaining gaps in its crime-recording arrangements that we identified in this inspection.

What next?

We expect 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.