Warwickshire Police - Crime Data Integrity inspection 2019

Overall judgment

graded good

Since our 2014 inspection, Warwickshire Police has made changes to its systems and processes to improve crime recording. These changes, supported by relevant training and messages from the chief officers, force crime registrar (FCR) and her deputy, have improved the crime recording standards it is achieving.

We found the force has:

  • created and implemented a crime data integrity (CDI) action plan to address our 2014 recommendations and areas for improvement;
  • developed a positive culture toward crime recording among officers and staff;
  • high levels of crime recording accuracy overall;
  • an effective process to find and rectify incorrect crime recording decisions through designated decision makers (DDMs) and a crime bureau that quality assures crime recording;
  • robust crime recording governance and performance management arrangements; and
  • an effective feedback process, so officers and staff who make errors can learn the correct requirements for their future crime recording decisions.

We examined crime reports from 1 October 2018 to 31 March 2019. Based on this, we estimate that the force records 93.1 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.68 percent) of crimes reported to it. We estimate that the force fails to record over 3,000 reported crimes each year.

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

  • more initial crime recording decisions are correct;
  • all staff who make crime recording decisions have been trained and can apply the crime recording requirements, particularly to offences like stalking, harassment and malicious communications;
  • it only uses out-of-court disposals when it is appropriate; and
  • it appropriately records all third party professional reports of crime received by the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH).

Summary of findings

The force has improved its crime recording accuracy since our 2014 report. We found it:

  • has made crime recording training available to all officers and staff who make crime recording decisions;
  • has an effective feedback process for officers and staff through the crime bureau, which supports its commitment to continual improvement;
  • has strong governance arrangements to make sure that it maintains the improvements it has made to its crime recording;
  • has implemented a flexible and risk-based audit schedule;
  • makes good use of audit results to inform training and make improvements; and
  • has completed all but one of the recommendations from our 2014 report.

The FCR and her deputy are responsible for oversight and audit of crime recording requirements. They have completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and the FCR is fully accredited for the role. Her deputy awaits final accreditation.

Despite these advances, the force needs to:

  • make sure that all supervisors, officers and staff who work in a crime recording role, particularly those in the harm assessment unit (HAU), complete the crime recording training that has been made available to them;
  • record more crimes within 24 hours as required by the national crime recording standard;
  • make sure it informs victims if their crime is transferred to another force for investigation or is cancelled;
  • improve how it collects equality information to help it understand and respond to the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within its communities; and
  • make sure officers only use out-of-court disposals in accordance with national guidance.

Areas for improvement

The force should immediately:

  • improve how it uses and supervises out-of-court disposals;
  • make sure it informs all victims if their crime is transferred to another force for investigation or is cancelled;
  • increase how many crimes it records within 24 hours as required by the national crime recording standards;
  • arrange to provide training in the Home Office Counting Rules for all officers and staff in crime recording roles; and
  • improve how it collects and analyses equality data through its crime reporting and recording systems.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded good

Overall crime recording rate

93.1% of reported crimes were recorded


The force has made good progress with its processes, ensuring it now records more reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (PDF document) (HOCR). We examined reports of crime which the force received, and for which it had created an auditable record. The force told us that 97.4 percent of crime it records (excluding fraud) comes through an auditable route. This doesn’t mean that 97.4 percent of crimes reported to Warwickshire Police come through these routes, but that 97.4 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 93.1 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.68 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording more than 3,000 reports of crime each year.

We found that the quality assurance and oversight of crime recording decisions by the crime bureau was effective. The force also has constructive feedback processes for officers and staff which support its commitment to continual improvement.

In most cases where the force still doesn’t record crimes, we found this was because:

  • officers and staff don’t always fully understand and apply changes made in April 2018 to the recording requirements for malicious communications, stalking and harassment offences;
  • it doesn’t properly understand the crime recording rules for non-injury assaults and public order offences; and
  • it doesn’t always follow the rules for recording crime reports received from third party professionals.

Of the 890 reports of crime that we audited, we assessed 249 as related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 227. The 22 missed crimes included:

  • 11 assaults;
  • two offences of stalking;
  • one offence of coercive and controlling behaviour;
  • four offences of harassment; and
  • four offences of malicious communications.

We found that the force had provided safeguarding to the victims in all but two of these cases. It had investigated all of them except those in which the victim didn’t want to pursue the investigation.

Violent crimes

89.6% of reported violent crimes were recorded

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

We found that 89.6 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.79 percent). 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 the force still doesn’t record violent crimes, this is because some frontline officers fail to identify and record certain crimes. These include common assault, harassment, stalking, malicious communications and some public order offences. Supervisors check crime records and incident logs for unrecorded crimes. But they have gaps in their knowledge as to what amounts to a crime of harassment, stalking or malicious communications. So these reported crimes often still go unrecorded.

Victims of violent crime often need a lot of support. This should come from the force, and other appropriate agencies such as Victim Support. In these circumstances, crime recording is even more important. If the force fails to record a violent crime properly, it can mean victims aren’t referred to Victim Support. This deprives victims of the support they need and deserve.

Sexual offences

96.4% of reported sex offences were recorded

The force records 96.4 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.45 percent). This is a good standard of crime recording accuracy. We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 40 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

This recording rate shows the close attention the force gives to reports of sexual offences. It ensures victims receive the service and support they deserve. This is welcome and is particularly important as many of these crimes are very serious in nature and cause significant harm to their victims.

Rape

45 of 50 audited rape reports were accurately recorded

Rape is one of the most serious crimes a victim can experience, so it is especially important that reports of rape are recorded accurately. It helps to make sure victims receive the service and support they deserve. And it helps the police identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area.

We found 50 reports of rape that the force should have recorded and it had correctly recorded 45 of these. It provided adequate safeguarding and investigation in all these cases.

The five unrecorded rape crimes originated from five separate cases. Of these:

  • three were wrongly classified as sexual assaults;
  • one was part of a historical report that included other rapes that were recorded correctly; and
  • one was incorrectly recorded under the Home Office classification N100 (see below).

The Home Office classification N100 was introduced in April 2015. Its purpose is to explain why reported incidents of rape or attempted rape, whether they are reported by victims, witnesses or third parties, haven’t immediately been recorded as a confirmed crime. This can include instances where additional information confirms the rape didn’t take place, or where the rape took place in another force area and was transferred to the relevant force to record and investigate.

We found 18 incident reports for which the force should have applied an N100 classification, but it only did so on 14 occasions. Separately, we also reviewed a sample of 20 records where it had applied an N100 classification. Of these, we found:

  • two further reports for which an N100 should have been recorded;
  • one that should have been recorded as a rape crime from the outset; and
  • one that should have been later converted into a recorded rape crime, but was not.

We found that N100s are poorly understood by frontline officers. The DDMs and crime bureau staff have better awareness and often take remedial action to make sure N100s are correctly recorded. This is an area for improvement.

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

graded requires improvement

Crime reports held on other systems

21 of 30 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

For vulnerable victims to get the support they need, it is important that crimes reported directly to public protection teams are always recorded.

Warwickshire Police has set up the HAU in the MASH to identify and record crimes reported directly to the MASH. These include referrals from other agencies and crimes disclosed during meetings or case conferences with third party professionals. Although the introduction of the HAU is encouraging, we found that further improvement is needed. The force needs to do more to make sure it always records crimes reported to the MASH.

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

The five unrecorded crimes included:

  • one rape, which was part of a complicated historical report;
  • three common assaults on a child; and
  • one theft.

Additionally, we examined 22 professional third-party referrals received by email. Of the 20 crimes that should have been recorded, 16 had been. The force missed three common assaults and one harassment crime. Professional third-party reports should be recorded as crimes at the point they are reported to the police.

In the HAU, staff knowledge and understanding of the crime recording rules are inconsistent. In particular, officers and staff don’t always fully understand and apply changes made in April 2018 to the recording requirements for coercive and controlling behaviour, stalking and harassment. This knowledge gap accounts for a large proportion of the unrecorded crimes.

Modern slavery

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

We examined 20 modern slavery records and found 20 modern slavery crimes, one rape and three other crimes. All these crimes were correctly recorded.

In addition, we reviewed nine reports received through the modern slavery referral mechanism. We found five modern slavery crimes that should have been recorded but only three had been. The force should also have recorded three other crimes and had recorded two. The unrecorded crime was one of theft.

Warwickshire Police has worked hard to improve its workforce’s knowledge and understanding of modern slavery. Training and information for officers dealing with modern slavery reports is easily accessible via the force intranet or an app on officers’ hand-held devices.

Timeliness

If the information the force gets at the first point of contact satisfies the national crime recording standard, the force should record crimes straight away and, in any case, within 24 hours. The force needs to improve in this respect.

We found that of the crimes Warwickshire Police had recorded, it had only recorded the following number within 24 hours of receiving the report:

  • 306 out of 387 violent crimes;
  • 100 out of 135 sexual offences; and
  • 225 out of 244 other offences.

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

Cancelled crimes

If additional verifiable information shows that a recorded crime didn’t take place, the record can be cancelled. A recorded crime can also be cancelled when it was committed in another force area and is subsequently transferred.

We reviewed a sample of cancelled recorded crimes of rape, other sexual offences, violence and robbery.

We found that the FCR had correctly authorised all seven cancelled offences of rape. The DDMs are responsible for other crime cancellation decisions. They had correctly authorised the cancellation of:

  • 16 out of 18 sexual offences;
  • 17 out of 20 violence offences; and
  • all seven robbery offences.

This is a good standard.

If a crime has been cancelled or transferred to another force to investigate, victims should always know the status of their reported crime. If the force decides to cancel a recorded crime, the very least the victim should expect is an explanation of why it decided this. We found that of the 23 victims who should have been told of the transfer or cancellation, only ten had been. So this is an area for improvement.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Document) gives police forces clear guidance about the service they should give crime victims. We have concluded the force is aware of its responsibilities under this code.

When Warwickshire Police records crimes, it asks the victims if they are happy for it to pass their details to Victim Support. If they agree, the force passes their details on accordingly.

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

Equality

We found that the force must improve the way it collects information about crimes affecting identifiable groups within communities.

Protected characteristics, such as gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, religion and age, don’t necessarily make someone more vulnerable to the risk of crime. However, it is important that the force records information about victims’ characteristics. This helps to identify any patterns between different groups and how vulnerable they are to (or how likely they are to report) different types of crime.

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

If the force fails to record such information, it won’t be able to fully understand and respond to the effect of crime on identifiable groups in its communities. So, this is an area for improvement.

Officer and staff survey

We carried out a survey of officers and staff in Warwickshire Police about their experience of crime recording. Some 163 respondents took part. We were pleased to find most agreed that the chief officer team clearly communicates the need for ethical crime recording.

Staff were clear that they didn’t feel any pressure to minimise the number of recorded crimes because of performance targets. But less than half of the respondents involved in recording crime remembered having received any crime recording training in the past two years.

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

graded good

Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police are in an alliance and share services. West Mercia’s deputy chief constable is the strategic lead for CDI in both forces. Together with the FCR, she has been particularly visible in communicating crime recording expectations and its link to better victim services. She also chairs a strategic governance group for crime recording, known as the CDI core group.

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

  • service improvement board;
  • senior detective forum;
  • CDI tactical group; and
  • daily management forum.

The force makes good use of its internal crime recording audits. It reviews them in strategic meetings, circulates them to supervisors and reports the findings to its learning and development group to inform future training requirements. This is good practice.

The FCR and her deputy are fully supported by the chief officers. They are empowered to make the required decisions to maintain and further improve crime recording.

Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police have a joint CDI action plan which includes all force and national recommendations from our 2014 reports. Warwickshire Police has made good progress against this plan and fully implemented most of the recommendations.

The two forces developed a new joint CDI action plan in October 2017. The plan addresses the last outstanding recommendation from 2014, which relates to out-of-court disposals. It also includes further areas for improvement which the force has found. We were pleased to see that the action plan already includes some of the areas for improvement we identified in this inspection. This demonstrates the force’s commitment to continuous improvement.

Conclusion

The force has made good progress in improving its crime recording since our 2014 inspection.

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

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

What next?

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

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