Staffordshire Police: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2016

Good

Addendum

Published 9 February 2017

In January 2017, HMIC completed a review of our crime data integrity inspection rolling programme. The 16 original inspection criteria which inform the overall judgment of the inspection are unchanged. However, HMIC introduced two changes to the way in which an overall graded judgment is determined:

  1. a slight lowering and broadening of the recording rates for each of the four possible graded judgments; and
  2. to enable separate graded judgments to be applied to the statistical and non-statistical elements of this inspection, the introduction of three core questions that are based around the 16 inspection criteria, each of which contribute to the overall graded judgment.

While the contents of the existing report remain valid, in order to make sure that all forces have published grades for the three questions, HMIC has applied this updated approach to our assessment of the published inspection findings for Staffordshire Police. This resulted in the following assessment:

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded good

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

graded requires improvement

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

As a result, the published overall graded judgment for the crime data integrity inspection of Staffordshire Police, and as shown at the top of this publication, has been changed from Requires Improvement to Good.

The judgment criteria page provides further information about how these criteria are applied.

Judgment

Staffordshire Police has made concerted efforts to improve crime-recording accuracy since HMIC’s 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report. Importantly, officers and staff have made progress in placing the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions. We found that the force:

  • recorded every reported rape;
  • recorded nearly all reports of crime reported directly to its public protection teams;
  • has implemented all of the recommendations set out in our 2014 report;
  • has made good progress against a national action plan developed to improve crime-recording by police forces; and
  • has introduced new processes to ensure that it records crimes reported by adults who are vulnerable.

Work remains to be done, however. Despite advances, the force is failing some victims of crime. Based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 October 2015 to 31 March 2016, we estimate that the force fails to record over 6,700 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 91.02 percent (with a confidence interval of +/-1.79 percent). The 8.98 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include serious crimes, such as violence and sexual offences. In addition, the force had not recorded all reported crimes of modern slavery. Improvements in efficiency are therefore required in some areas.

In particular, we consider that there are too many failures to make the correct crime-recording decision at the first opportunity. These failures are due to an insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements by officers and staff compounded by limited supervision to correct these decisions at the earliest opportunity. In addition, at the time of our inspection, those charged with oversight of crime-recording arrangements (the force crime registrar and the crime administration unit) did not have the capacity to efficiently and effectively carry out the full extent of their responsibilities.

Summary of inspection findings

The force has improved its crime-recording processes since HMIC’s 2014 report. In particular, we found that:

  • recording accuracy is very good in some areas, such as reports of rape;
  • the force has made progress with implementing changes recommended in the 2014 report, and as a result has completed these recommendations;
  • the force has also made good progress against the national action plan, developed by the national lead on crime statistics following the 2014 report and which all forces have been asked to implement. This includes taking part in a national pilot for out-of-court disposals which has lead to a clearer focus on the needs and expectations of victims; and
  • the force crime registrar (FCR) – responsible for oversight and audit of crime-recording arrangements – has completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and is now fully accredited for the role. His work is supported by the deputy chief constable and the force’s crime administration unit (CAU). The CAU is responsible for the auditing of crime-related incidents to ensure the accuracy of crime-recording.

Despite those advances, the force’s performance in respect of crime-recording requires improvement in the following areas:

  • The force is currently under-recording:
    • violent crimes;
    • sexual offences; and
    • crimes of modern slavery.

    The force must improve the accuracy of its recording of these reports.

  • The CAU provides information to local policing teams on crime-recording performance, including individual feedback for officers and staff. However, not all local policing teams are providing this feedback to their officers and staff.
  • Referrals by the force to the victim support agency can take several days, letting down those victims who need the early support this agency can provide. The force is aware of this and is taking action to increase the capacity of its CAU.
  • The force does not always record diversity information when it first receives a report of a crime. This means that the force does not know how likely its crime-recording decisions are to be correct for specific communities.

Those failings are often a consequence of the FCR and CAU not having the capacity to efficiently and effectively carry out the full extent of their responsibilities, and officers and staff not understanding their responsibilities for crime-recording. The failings are, in addition, underpinned by limited supervision by the force of crime-recording decision-making. Improvements are required in these areas.

Findings

Overall crime-recording rate

91.02% of reported crimes 
were recorded

Over 6,700 reports of crime 
a year are not recorded

The force has further work to do in order to ensure that it records all reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (PDF document). We examined records of reports of crime which the force received, and for which an auditable record was created. The force informed HMIC that 98.68 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime reporting route. This does not mean that 98.68 percent of crimes reported to Staffordshire Police came through these routes but that 98.68 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 91.02 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.79 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 6,700 reports of crime each year. Those failings are depriving many victims of the services to which they are entitled.

Factors contributing to the force’s under-recording of crime reports are its crime recording processes, the CAU’s capacity and resilience and the crime-recording knowledge of its workforce.

  • Deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes are a cause of concern. In particular, we found that on occasion:
    • when there is no requirement for an officer to attend a reported incident, or when further offences come to light after the initial deployment or during subsequent investigation, the force does not always record reported crimes;
    • incident records that contain multiple reports often result in only one crime being recorded; and
    • a single incident record is sometimes used to record more than one event, such as those used to manage the deployment of teams of officers during busy periods of public order policing, known as safer night patrols. In these cases, multiple and unconnected crimes are not always recorded.
  • The CAU does not have sufficient capacity and resilience to scrutinise all relevant incident records and, when appropriate, to ensure a corresponding crime record is created on the force crime-recording system, CMS2. Importantly, this includes a lack of capacity to review risk assessments from reported incidents of domestic abuse and to ensure all crimes described within these are recorded.
  • When dealing with complex crimes, the call handlers, CAU staff and response officers are not always sure of the crime-recording requirements.

Although the decision to record an event as a crime may be taken at the point of receiving a report, it is not until the CAU classifies the event, and fully records it on CMS2, that the force makes a referral to the victim support agency. This classification process can take several days and lets down to an unacceptable degree those victims who need the early support this agency can provide.

We note that the CAU operates a feedback process to draw crime-recording mistakes to the attention of the relevant officer or staff member. However, we found little consistency in its application across local policing teams and other departments, where some officers and staff receive feedback and others do not. As a result, the force does not use the feedback process to its full potential. This is an area for improvement.

A further problem relates to the force’s inconsistent supervision of its crime-recording decisions. The force has a large number of constables carrying out the role of temporary sergeant. This inevitably results in dilution of the knowledge and experience of the supervisory role required to achieve accurate crime-recording across the breadth of the force.

The gap in effective supervision is exacerbated by the lack of capacity for the FCR to adequately complete his responsibilities for the regular audit of incidents and crime records. This includes not conducting any audit whatsoever of modern slavery records, or of crimes currently being investigated by the National Crime Agency. This prevents him from clearly understanding the issues that may affect the integrity of crime-recording. Consequently he is considering limiting the extent of audits carried out by his team. This, therefore, is a cause of concern to HMIC.

We note, in concluding this section, that the force has already commenced work to introduce a new IT system to help improve the efficiency of its crime-recording arrangements. It is also working to increase the capacity of the CAU. We welcome these developments.

Violence against the person

89.95% of reported violent crimes 
were recorded

Over 2,500 reports of violent crime 
a year are not recorded

We found that 89.95 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.96 percent). This is slightly lower than the overall crime recording rate noted above. By our estimate, the force fails to record over 2,500 violent crimes that are reported to it each year. As violent crime can be particularly distressing for the victim this is an area in which the need for improvement is particularly acute.

In the majority of cases, where violent crimes were not recorded, we found the principal causes to be:

  • the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime (described earlier);
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Victims of violent crime, and in particular victims of more serious violence, often require substantial support. This support should come not only from the police but from other appropriate agencies, such as Victim Support. In those circumstances, crime-recording takes on a heightened importance. Failing to properly record a violent crime can result in victim support agencies receiving no notification that a person has become a victim of violent crime. That, in turn, deprives victims of the support they need and deserve. This finding is, therefore, a cause of concern.

Sexual offences

94.72% of reported sex offences 
were recorded

Over 120 reports of sex offence crime 
were not recorded

The force’s recording of reports of sexual offences requires improvement. We found that the force records 94.72 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.45 percent). By our estimate, the force fails to record over 120 reported sexual offences that are reported to it each year.

Those failings are significant given the very serious nature of sexual offences and the harm that they cause to their victims. We found, for example, that the force had failed to record reports of sexual assault against both adults and children.

The causes of that under-recording are the same as were identified above in respect of violent crime. These are:

  • the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime;
  • a lack of adequate knowledge surrounding the crime-recording rules by officers and staff; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Rape

All audited rape reports were accurately recorded

We found that Staffordshire Police recorded all reports of rape that we audited during this inspection.

We audited 78 reports of rape that the force should have recorded, all of which it had recorded. These include 61 reports that originated on the force incident system and 17 originating from reports of modern slavery.

In this regard, we found that officers and staff understood well their crime-recording responsibilities. The force has worked hard to ensure this is the case and has effective systems in place to validate its rape crime-recording decisions.

However, we still found some underlying issues in respect of the timeliness with which the force records crimes of rape, with a high proportion of rapes being recorded outside 24 hours. Nevertheless, we found no delays in commencing rape investigations.

There are, in addition, some issues surrounding the force’s use of the Home Office classification N100. Introduced in April 2015, the N100 classification is a record created to describe 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 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 12 incident reports for which the force should have applied an N100 classification. However, it was only applied on 8 occasions.

Separately, we also reviewed 20 sample records where an N100 classification had been used. All were of a good standard and correctly recorded.

Staff in the CAU had a clear understanding of what type of incident required an N100 classification. However, we found that frontline officers, and officers and staff working in the public protection investigation teams (PPITs) had very little knowledge of the purpose and use of this classification. The force must ensure that it consistently uses classification N100 on all relevant occasions in order to minimise the delay in recording an offence of rape. This is, therefore, an area for improvement.

Crime reports held on other systems

43 of 44 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

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

We examined 50 vulnerable victim records on the force’s database (called Guardian). Of these, we found that 44 crimes should have been recorded, of which 43 had been. The one crime which was not recorded was a report of intentional harassment alarm or distress.

We note that the FCR audits Guardian regularly. These audits show an improvement in the accuracy of crime-recording decisions from 75 percent at 31 December 2015 to 95 percent at 29 February 2016. Many of the reports of crime recorded on Guardian are serious matters, often involving vulnerable adults and children. Therefore, the audits should provide important assurance for the force as to the robustness of its public protection arrangements.

The force has introduced an adult safeguarding and enquiry team (ASET). We found that officers and staff in ASET are aware of the need to ensure the recording of crimes reported by third parties, such as those reported through health professionals and social services. The force has introduced effective systems to do so, including a system to ensure that it identifies and records any crime disclosed during multi-agency meetings. HMIC considers this to be good practice.

We also note with approval that, pending the introduction of its new IT system, the force has introduced vulnerability hubs to better understand and deal with demand from lower-risk vulnerable people. The force is also developing a database, known as the citizen focus toolkit. This will record activity linked to vulnerable locations and the force will use it alongside its vulnerable people database.

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. We also examined forces’ understanding of the origin of such reports.

We reviewed 13 modern slavery crime records and found all were correctly recorded. We found that additional offences related to these crimes were correctly recorded; these included 14 crimes of rape.

We also looked at 20 modern slavery incident records from the force modern slavery database. From these, we found eight reports of crime that were not recorded on the force’s crime-recording system (CMS2). Five of these were modern slavery offences and three were other less serious crimes. We found the database containing these records was difficult to adequately audit as many records simply referenced paper files. The failure to record these serious offences, often involving vulnerable people, is a serious cause of concern.

The force has a limited understanding of the origins of reports about modern slavery and accepts that there is more work needed both nationally and regionally to better understand the issues of modern slavery so that it can improve its response. We note that staff however, had a good, basic knowledge of modern slavery offences. We also found that staff had a good, basic knowledge of their respective responsibilities in relation to the recording of such offences and where they could find further information.

Cancelled crimes

Where additional verifiable information (AVI) is obtained to show that a recorded crime did not occur, the crime record can be cancelled. In this respect, we found that the force has made good progress.

The force has introduced a system in which those staff able to make a crime cancellation decision, known as designated decision makers (DDMs), are based in the CAU working alongside the FCR. This is a positive decision which should lead to more consistent decisions that comply with the crime-recording rules. However, we found that not all crime cancellation decisions are correct.

We reviewed 20 cancelled recorded crimes of rape, other sexual offences and violence, and 13 cancelled recorded crimes of robbery. We found that the FCR had clear oversight of rape and serious sexual offence cancellations, and that these cancellations were faultless.

In respect of crimes of violence and robbery, DDMs incorrectly authorised the cancellation of 3 out of 20 violence offences and 4 out of 13 robbery offences. Following an audit by the FCR, one of the incorrect violence cancellation decisions was later corrected.

Frontline staff have little or no knowledge of AVI. Furthermore, many officers and staff stated that, even if they have additional information, they often do not consider requesting a cancellation. The force has not provided any training in what constitutes AVI, and the removal of performance targets means that crimes which did not take place sometimes remain recorded. While this may have a limited effect on the force’s overall crime rate, it can have very serious implications for any suspect named on the crime record.

Where a crime has been cancelled 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 the force had informed the victim of this decision on nearly every occasion. This is good and demonstrates appropriate consideration of the needs of the victim.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Document) provides clear guidance to police forces regarding the service that should be provided to all victims of crime. We have concluded that the force is not complying with all of its responsibilities.

The force’s process for recording a crime involves the CAU deciding the classification of the crime. Only once this is done does the force inform the victim support agency of the crime; and only then can the victim support agency provide a follow-up service to those victims requesting it. The contract with this service is for notification within 48 hours. As the process of classification can take longer than 48 hours, some victims are not being provided with the opportunity to access this support at an early stage.

We also found that the force does not have a process to ensure that it provides all victims of crime with a written acknowledgement that they have reported a crime, including the basic details of the offence recorded. As this is compulsory under the code, this requires improvement.

Equality

HMIC found that the force must improve its collection of information regarding the effect of crimes on 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 in order that it may identify any patterns which may exist between different community groups and their vulnerability to (or their relative likelihood to report) different types of crime.

Importantly, 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, therefore, is an area for improvement.

Officer and staff survey

We conducted a survey of officers and staff in Staffordshire Police of their experience in respect of crime-recording. Some 104 respondents completed the survey. We were pleased to find that the majority of respondents reported that the force’s approach in respect of crime-recording had improved or significantly improved since our 2014 inspection. Furthermore, staff were clear that they no longer felt under any pressure to minimise the number of crimes recorded on the basis of performance targets.

Previous recommendations

The force has made progress with implementing changes recommended in our 2014 report (PDF document), and as a result these recommendations have been completed. However, the force should now address the areas for improvement highlighted in this report and implement the recommendations set out below:

Cause of concern

Officers and staff are failing to make correct crime-recording decisions at the first opportunity. This is due to deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes, insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements, and limited supervision to correct the decisions of officers and staff and improve standards from the outset. This means that the force is failing many victims of crime.

The force crime registrar does not have the capacity to undertake a full programme of audit of relevant records in order to identify, understand and address the issues that may affect crime-recording accuracy. This means that the force is not identifying opportunities for improvements to its crime-recording accuracy.

The force’s approach to its recording of reports of modern slavery does not provide sufficiently for the recording of crimes contained within these reports or for effective audits.

Recommendations

  • Within six months, Staffordshire Police should develop and operate a new process for the recording of reported crime on CMS2 (its crime-recording system). This process should ensure that the force creates crime records when:
    • there is no requirement for an officer to attend the reported incident;
    • further offences come to light after the initial deployment or during subsequent investigation; and
    • multiple crimes are reported on a single incident record.
  • Within six months, the force should design and provide crime-recording training that is bespoke to the level of knowledge required by officers and staff for their roles. Where appropriate ,this should include training in the:
    • crime-recording requirements for complex crimes such as online offences, sexual offences and fraud;
    • use of classification N100 in respect of reports of rape; and
    • standard of additional verifiable information required for the purpose of cancelling a recorded crime.
  • Within three months, the force should develop and implement procedures for the effective supervision of crime-recording decisions throughout the whole force.
  • Within six months, the force should review the extent of its crime-recording related auditing and implement arrangements which ensure that its auditing of these records (including its vulnerable people and modern slavery databases, National Crime Agency records and its citizen focus toolkit) meet the national minimum standards for such audits.
  • Within three months, the force should review and update its approach to the recording of reports of modern slavery, to ensure that such reports are accessible and suitable for audit, and that all reported crime of this type is recorded on CMS2 (its crime-recording system).

Areas for improvement

  • The force should reduce the time it takes to classify formally a reported crime within the CAU so that relevant referrals to the victim support agency take place within the timeframes agreed with that agency.
  • The force should formalise how it provides feedback to staff regarding their crime-recording decisions by introducing common practices across all local policing teams and departments.
  • The force should review the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Document) and ensure its systems and processes enable it to satisfy the expectations within this code.
  • The force should immediately improve how it collects diversity information from victims of crime and how it uses this to inform its compliance with its equality duty.

Conclusion

The force has made progress in its crime-recording processes since 2014. However, improvements must continue to be made.

We found strong leadership from senior officers in regard to crime-recording expectations, and an approach among officers and staff which places the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions.

However, the force is still letting down some victims. It needs to address this by improving its crime-recording process, ensuring that its staff and officers fully understand the crime-recording standards it expects of them, and that these standards are supervised effectively. The force also needs to address shortcomings in and the resilience of its auditing procedures.

What next?

HMIC expects the force to make progress with implementing the recommendations we make in this report. We will monitor this progress.

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