Surrey Police: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2018

Overall judgment

graded good

Surrey Police has made concerted efforts to improve crime-recording accuracy since our 2014 crime data integrity inspection report HMICFRS’s 2014 crime data integrity inspection report. Importantly, we found a commitment to accurate crime recording that is victim-focused and free from performance pressures of any kind. We found the force:

  • achieves good levels of recording accuracy for reported violence offences;
  • records nearly every crime where young people take and share indecent images of themselves;
  • records many crimes within 24 hours as permitted by the rules;
  • has improved the knowledge and understanding among its officers and staff of the crime-recording requirements for offences of stalking, harassment and malicious communications; and
  • has implemented all the recommendations set out in our 2014 report.

This is very encouraging. Nonetheless, based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 October 2017 to 31 March 2018, we estimate that the force fails to record over 5,400 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 93 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.48 percent). The seven percent of reported crimes that went unrecorded is particularly affected by the under-recording of sexual crimes, including rape. Further improvements are therefore required in these areas.

We believe that instances of crimes not being recorded generally occur when staff and officers do not understand the need to record multiple offences disclosed during investigations, particularly in those cases dealt with by detective officers.

Summary of inspection findings

Surrey Police has improved its crime-recording processes since our 2014 report. In particular we found the force has:

  • developed a comprehensive action plan and implemented many positive changes, driven by a strategic crime and incident recording group (SCIRG) under the leadership of the deputy chief constable;
  • improved knowledge and understanding of crime-recording requirements among officers and staff, particularly for crimes of stalking, harassment, malicious communications and cases where young people take and share indecent images of themselves;
  • improved supervision of its use of out-of-court disposals to ensure they are being used appropriately;
  • developed and given training to address those areas where officers and staff regularly make the same crime-recording mistakes; and
  • implemented all the recommendations set out in our 2014 report.

We also found that the force crime registrar (FCR) – responsible for overseeing and auditing crime-recording requirements – has completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and is fully accredited for the role. The FCR is supported by a small team that undertakes regular audits of reported and recorded crime.

Despite these advances, the force’s crime-recording performance could be better in certain areas. The force is currently under-recording some:

  • sexual crimes (including some arising from domestic abuse incidents);
  • rape crimes reported to it; and
  • crimes disclosed during modern slavery investigations.

The force must improve the recording accuracy of these reports.

We consider that failures generally occur when officers dealing with sexual offence crimes fail to record other crimes disclosed during their investigations.

We recognise that the force has invested significantly in training for the frontline uniformed staff. This was in response to changing its operating model, which meant that these officers would need to investigate crimes. This training included crime-recording responsibilities and requirements. The force is aware that training is required within its detective units and this had already started at the time of our inspection.

Areas for improvement

The force should immediately:

  • remind staff with crime-recording responsibilities of the need to record all crimes at the first point at which sufficient information exists to do so, particularly in domestic abuse cases;
  • ensure that all reported sexual crimes (including rape) are recorded without delay;
  • ensure that all crimes disclosed during modern slavery investigations are recorded without delay;
  • ensure that classification N100 is used correctly;
  • ensure that reports of crime made by third parties acting on behalf of the victim in a professional capacity are recorded;
  • improve the process for cancelling crimes where additional verifiable information exists and ensure that all victims who have their crimes cancelled are informed of that fact; 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 good

Overall crime-recording rate

93% of reported crimes were recorded

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

Surrey Police has further work to do 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 96.6 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime-reporting route. This does not mean that 96.6 percent of crimes reported to Surrey Police come through these routes but that 96.6 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 93 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.48 percent). We estimate the force is not recording over 5,400 reports of crime each year, thereby potentially depriving some victims of valuable support services.

Of the 1,206 reports of crime we audited, 258 were crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these the force had recorded 216. The 42 offences not recorded included a mixture of violent crime and sexual crimes.

We found some occasions when crimes were not recorded were when a person acting in a professional capacity, such as a teacher or social worker, reported crimes on behalf of victims, but the force failed to record these as required by the rules.

We also found that on many occasions the force correctly recorded the crime initially reported by the victim but failed to record further crimes disclosed during the subsequent investigations.

However, we found that when domestic abuse crimes had not been recorded, safeguarding requirements and an investigation had been undertaken in all but two cases. This is positive.

Under-recording crime arising from domestic abuse incidents is significant. When these are not identified and recorded as crimes at the earliest opportunity, there is invariably a lack of oversight to ensure that the correct crime-recording decisions are later taken. We found little evidence that supervisors were intervening to ensure that all crimes disclosed had been recorded.

The force has an occurrence management unit (OMU) which, among other roles, should ensure that crimes disclosed in the initial contact with the force are recorded. We were impressed with the knowledge and understanding displayed by the staff in the unit, and on the majority of occasions this process worked well. However, we found that not all reported crimes that should have been identified by the OMU were being recorded.

We did find that the force had undertaken significant training with its uniformed officers who often attend domestic abuse incidents in the first instance. This training has been effective and we found only a small number of reports of harassment, malicious communications and low-level assault had not been recorded. This has undoubtedly supported the force in achieving a good level of recording of violence offences. More recently, it has embarked on a training programme for the officers working within the criminal and sexual investigation units.

The force is aware that the recording of crimes from domestic abuse incidents needs to improve.

Violence against the person

93.1% of reported violent crimes were recorded

Over 1,500 reports of violent crime a year are not recorded

We found that 93.1 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.57 percent). This is a good result but one that can be improved. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 1,500 violent crimes that are reported to it each year.

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

  • failure to record other crimes disclosed during an investigation;
  • failure to identify a crime; and
  • lack of effective oversight to ensure that the correct crime-recording decisions are taken.

Victims of violent crime often require substantial support. This support should come not only from the force, but from other appropriate organisations such as Victim Support. In those circumstances, crime recording is even more important. Failing to properly record a violent crime can result in Victim Support receiving no notification that a person has become a victim of violent crime. That in turn may deprive victims of the support they need and deserve.

Sexual offences

87.8% of reported sex offences were recorded

Over 290 reports of sex offences a year are not recorded

We found that the force records 87.8 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.61 percent). We estimate that this still means the force is not recording over 290 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

This is a disappointing result. It is significantly affected by reports of crime that go unrecorded in domestic abuse cases and by under-recording reported crimes of rape (see below). Recording these offences is particularly important as many of these crimes are serious in nature and can 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, or when a person acting in a professional capacity on behalf of the victim reports a crime. We did find that investigations were conducted in many but not all of these crimes, and safeguarding requirements had taken place in all.

Recording such crimes has added importance for identifying perpetrators and challenging their behaviour. The force should:

  • improve the recording of offences at the point of reporting;
  • ensure additional offences disclosed during the course of an investigation are recorded; and
  • ensure the supervision of initial reports of crime and crime investigations includes consideration of crime-recording requirements.

Rape

159 of 200 audited rape reports were accurately recorded

Rape is one of the most serious sexual offence crimes a victim can experience. Therefore, recording such reports accurately is especially important. It helps to ensure victims receive the service and support they deserve and have a right to expect. It also allows the force to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in its local area.

Of the 200 reports of rape that should have been recorded, we found 159 had been correctly recorded. The reasons the 41 crimes were not recorded included occasions where the force:

  • had recorded a crime of rape against one perpetrator but failed to record a rape in respect of a second perpetrator;
  • wrongly recorded another offence instead of rape;
  • recorded reports of rape as vulnerable adult records instead of crime records, two of which were historic crimes and two where the victim had mental ill-health and gave inconsistent accounts, which officers wrongly believed was a failure to confirm that a crime had occurred;
  • had recorded N100 records (see below) instead of rape crimes; and
  • had not recorded crimes of rape disclosed during modern slavery investigations.

We found that proportionate investigations had been undertaken in all cases, with some progressing to prosecution. Safeguarding was provided to every victim.

The force’s use of the Home Office classification N100 needs to improve. 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 35 incident reports for which the force should have applied an N100 classification, but it was only applied on 16 occasions. Separately, we also reviewed 20 sample records where an N100 classification had been applied. Among these, we found that 13 had been correctly recorded. The seven incorrectly recorded N100s included:

  • two, containing a total of five reports of rape, which should have been recorded as crimes of rape and were not;
  • three, containing a total of five reports of rape, which were subsequently correctly recorded as crimes of rape, but should have been recorded as rapes from the outset; and
  • two which were incorrectly recorded from the outset; one was a duplicate of a rape crime already recorded and the other was recorded instead of a sexual assault.

The force must improve its processes for recording reported crimes of rape. This includes cases where victims with mental ill-health have difficulties providing consistent, coherent reports of crime. It is also important that the force improves the understanding of N100 classifications among officers and staff if it is to fully satisfy itself that the correct recording decisions are always taken regarding reports of rape.

We recognise the force has already identified issues regarding rape crime recording and the use of classification N100 and has commenced training and development in this area.

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

graded requires improvement

Crime reports held on other systems

28 of 41 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

In order to be confident that vulnerable victims always receive the support they need, Surrey Police needs to improve the service provided to victims.

We examined 50 records on the force’s vulnerable victim system. We found that 41 crimes should have been recorded, of which 28 had been. There were two missing vulnerable adult crimes, a sexual assault and a common assault. Both were disclosed during multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) for high-risk domestic abuse victims. It is noted though that two rape crimes disclosed during MARACs were correctly recorded by the force. The missing vulnerable child crimes were all disclosed in communications between the force and children’s social care services. They comprised three assaults occasioning actual bodily harm, one common assault, three sexual assaults, one sexual activity with a child and one offence involving indecent images of children.

We note that safeguarding to a high standard was provided in every case, but in both adult cases and three child cases no investigations were carried out. The remaining cases were investigated.

Modern slavery

Modern slavery is an important and recent addition to the crimes that forces must record and investigate. We therefore reviewed the recording of reports of these offences. We also examined the force’s understanding of the origin of such reports.

We found the force’s recording of these crimes must improve.

We examined 16 modern slavery crime records. We found that 10 modern slavery crimes were correctly recorded but six were wrongly classified as modern slavery crimes. Where other crimes should additionally have been recorded the force correctly recorded 2 rape crimes but failed to record 13 other rape crimes (included in ‘rape’ section above), and a number of other crimes including assaults.

In addition, we examined 20 modern slavery referrals and found that 10 crimes of modern slavery were correctly recorded. However, two crimes of modern slavery were over-recorded and one crime of modern slavery, three of rape (included in ‘rape’ above), and three of assault were not recorded.

The force has an identified lead for modern slavery. She works at force, regional, national and international levels with other forces, organisations and law enforcement institutions. These include the National Crime Agency, Border Force and Interpol and other non-enforcement partners such as local authorities and charities.

We found that officers and staff have an improving knowledge of modern slavery offences, and a good knowledge of their responsibility to record these offences and of where they can find further information.

Timeliness

Where the information obtained at the first point of contact satisfies the crime-recording decision-making process, the expectation is that identified crimes will be recorded without delay. In any case recording must take place within 24 hours.

We found that, of the reports of crime that had been recorded by the force, 292 out of 337 reports of violent crime, 278 out of 338 sexual offences and 315 out of 340 other crimes had been recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report. This is a good result meaning quicker referrals to Victim Support.

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 cancelled recorded crimes of rape, violence, sexual offences (excluding rape) and robberies. Of these, we found the FCR had correctly cancelled 16 out of 20 crimes of rape. Other crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of designated decision makers (DDMs). The DDMs had correctly cancelled 16 out of 20 sexual offences, 13 out of 16 violence offences and 10 out of 14 robbery offences.

Of the four incorrectly cancelled rape crimes, one was a crime committed in Scotland where Police Scotland had failed to record the crime and the second was a crime committed overseas. As the force had investigated the overseas crime it should not have been cancelled.

The other incorrect cancellation decisions related to the absence of sufficient AVI to demonstrate that the crime did not occur. We found that some officers and investigators did not fully understand what amounted to AVI and were unclear about the necessary process.

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 30 out of 37 victims who should have been informed of the transfer or cancellation had been.

These findings demonstrate that while the force has an effective process for dealing with crime cancellations, improvements are still needed. The force should pay particular attention to understanding what amounts to AVI, and ensure that it informs victims if crimes are cancelled.

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 the force is aware of its responsibilities under this code.

All victims of crime whose reports are recorded by the force are offered the services of Victim Support. They can receive the relevant information by text, email or letter. These communications contain information about individual victims’ cases and, in addition to directing them to the services of Victim Support, also provide details of other organisations that can help. Victim Support is also provided with the details of victims of crime to enable it to make direct contact.

Equality

We found the force must improve its 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. This will enable them 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 that the force always records some equality information about victims, such as age and gender, but only records other protected characteristics when it determines them to be relevant to the offence.

So long as the force fails to routinely record such information, it will be unable to understand clearly whether its crime-recording decisions are consistent across different community groups. This is an area for improvement.

Officer and staff survey

We conducted a survey of officers and staff in Surrey Police of their experience of crime recording. Some 231 respondents completed the survey. We were pleased to find that officers understand their responsibilities regarding ethical crime recording and are not under any pressure that prevents them from recording crimes when they should. Furthermore, the vast majority of respondents stated the chief officer team encourages officers and staff to challenge activities or behaviours that are unethical, unacceptable or unprofessional in respect of recording reported crime.

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

graded outstanding

The culture and leadership regarding crime recording in Surrey Police is outstanding.

The force has strong, demonstrable leadership and a clear commitment to get crime recording right. We found good evidence that current arrangements in the force support accurate and timely crime recording across much of the force, with some improvements required within those departments that deal with sexual offences.

We found evidence of strong governance at senior level. There is an annual audit plan and regular audits are carried out in accordance with national guidance. The FCR and the senior responsible officer have regular meetings to discuss crime-recording audit findings, and these results are reported through regular performance meetings. Crime recording features on the force register of risks and is part of both strategic and local management meetings.

In particular, we were impressed by the commitment of the force to respond to our 2014 findings. The SCIRG drives improvements in crime recording. This is evidenced by the good recording result for violent crime which is derived from focused training and development. A comprehensive action plan is in place under the leadership of the deputy chief constable and a small team. The force has implemented all the recommendations made in our 2014 report, and in the national action plan developed by the national lead on crime statistics following our 2014 report.

Conclusion

Surrey Police has made good progress in its crime-recording processes since 2014. The very strong leadership and positive approach among most officers and staff toward victims is welcome and provides confidence that the force will be able to respond quickly and effectively to the outstanding matters found during this inspection.

Victims reporting crimes to the force should have confidence that their report will be taken seriously.

What next?

We expect the force to make progress against the areas for improvement we identify 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.