West Midlands Police: Crime Data Integrity re-inspection 2018
Crime Data Integrity re-inspection 2018
In April 2017, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) conducted a crime data integrity inspection of West Midlands Police.
We published the report of this inspection in September 2017 and concluded that the force’s crime-recording arrangements were not acceptable. As a result, we gave West Midlands Police an overall judgment of inadequate.
Our 2017 report made a series of recommendations and areas for improvement aimed at improving crime recording in West Midlands Police. This re-inspection assessed the progress made since that report.
This report focuses upon our inspection of reports of violent crime and sexual offences. It does not include the results of our audit of reports of other crime, and consequently it is not possible to report on the force’s overall crime-recording accuracy. This is because the current incident and crime-recording systems can only support a minimum number of descriptive opening codes and the interface between them is very limited. These features make it difficult for the force to accurately categorise reports of crime for auditing purposes and to satisfy itself that the apportionment of crimes reported and recorded directly is accurate. In 2019 the force plans to replace a number of legacy systems, after which we expect auditing processes to improve markedly. Our overall judgment reflects the limitations of the current system.
The findings and our judgment resulting from this re-inspection are set out below.
- Overall judgment
- Summary of inspection findings
- How effective is the force at recording reported crime?
- How efficiently do the systems and processes in the force support accurate crime recording?
- How well does the force demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?
- What next?
West Midlands Police has taken action to improve crime-recording accuracy since HMICFRS’s 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report. We found that:
- most officers and staff have made progress in placing the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions;
- it has worked hard to improve the knowledge and understanding of crime-recording requirements for modern slavery crimes among officers and staff;
- it has implemented most of the recommendations set out in our 2014 report; and
- it has made good progress against a national action plan developed to improve crime recording by police forces.
More work remains to be done, however. Despite advances, based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 July 2016 to 31 December 2016 we estimate that the force fails to record over 38,800 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 83.8 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.88 percent). The 16.2 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include serious crimes such as sexual offences, domestic abuse and rape. The recording rate for violent crime is a particular cause of concern at only 77.9 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.36 percent). This means that on too many occasions, the force is failing victims of crime.
The force must make improvements in several areas. There are too many failures to make the correct crime-recording decision at the first opportunity. Not all staff and officers have a good understanding of crime-recording requirements, and limited supervision means poor crime-recording decisions are not corrected at the earliest opportunity.
West Midlands Police has improved some elements of its crime-recording arrangements since our 2017 crime data integrity (CDI) inspection report. However, we found more still needs to be done.
We found it has:
- designated the deputy chief constable (DCC) as the lead for the CDI improvement plan;
- developed and begun to implement bespoke crime-recording improvement plans for all relevant departments;
- improved its arrangements for the recording of modern slavery offences; and
- continued to provide crime-recording training to officers and staff responsible for making crime-recording decisions.
We examined crime reports from 1 March 2018 to 31 May 2018. Based on this we estimate that the force now records:
- 78.2 percent of violent crime (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.87 percent); and
- 89.2 percent of sexual offences (with a confidence interval of 2.70%).
Consequently, the recording rates for violent crime and sexual offences remain a cause of concern. Too often the force is still failing victims of crime, including domestic abuse victims.
We also found that the force still doesn’t record all crimes committed against vulnerable people which are reported directly to its public protection department.
When it does record crime reports, delays in doing this can result in victims not being referred to support services as soon as possible. This can affect the early support that charities can provide.
The force’s supervision of crime-recording processes and crime-recording decisions is also inconsistent. It doesn’t yet have proper safeguards in place to make sure it records all reported crimes.
The force must increase the amount of crime reports it records within 24 hours. It also needs to improve how it:
- understands and uses classification N100;
- records crimes reported by third party professionals (such as social services and health professionals);
- cancels recorded sexual, violence and robbery offences; and
- records equality information about crime victims.
Summary of inspection findings
The force has improved its crime-recording processes since our 2014 report. In particular, we found that:
- progress has been made with implementing changes recommended in the 2014 report and, as a result, the force has completed most of these recommendations;
- the force has also made good progress against the action plan developed by the national policing lead on crime statistics following the 2014 report, which all forces have been asked to implement. These include improvements to the force’s use of out-of-court disposals (e.g. cautions and community resolutions) and to the level of its audit of crime-recording decisions; and
- the force crime registrar (FCR), – responsible for oversight 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 an accredited deputy FCR and a small audit team.
Despite these advances, the force’s performance in respect of crime-recording is unsatisfactory in the following areas:
- The force is currently under-recording too many reports of crime, including:
- violent crimes;
- reports of rape; and
- other sexual offences.
The force needs to act promptly to improve the accuracy of its recording of these reports and to provide all victims with the service to which they are entitled and deserve.
- Incidents which have been disclosed directly to public protection teams as part of multi-agency safeguarding arrangements, and which amount to a crime in law, are not always recorded as such.
- Delays in recording a reported crime are leading to delays in referring victims to Victim Support, letting down those victims who need the early support this organisation can provide.
- The force is incorrectly cancelling some recorded violence and robbery offences.
- The force must improve the extent to which it collects information regarding the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities.
Some of these failings are a consequence of officers and staff not understanding their responsibilities for crime recording. In addition, there is limited supervision of the crime-recording decisions taken by officers and staff.
Causes of concern and areas for improvement
In 2017, we identified several causes of concern and areas for improvement. You can view these in the full version of the 2017 report.
The force has increased how often it records crime reports as soon as enough information exists to do so. However, the pace of improvements with crime recording since our 2017 report has been slower than anticipated.
Following our 2017 inspection, the force sought to improve its crime-recording performance. The DCC approved and leads on a comprehensive crime-recording improvement plan, built around training, audit and governance. This plan contains 63 actions to address the causes of concern, recommendations and areas for improvement from our 2017 report.
The force has increased its audit capacity by providing training to staff working within its service improvement teams in each of its five core operational departments. These staff now complete monthly dip sampling of crime-recording decisions. The results are reported back to the audit and compliance team so that they can be quality assured. Additionally, each department has produced a CDI improvement plan and has a nominated lead for CDI matters. This is good practice.
The force also reviewed its crime-recording governance arrangements, reporting progress against the improvement plan and audit results to the force strategic information management board and the office of the police and crime commissioner.
Unfortunately, despite these changes, the force’s own audits between October 2017 and May 2018 showed that crime-recording compliance had not improved. It also found there were clear differences in crime-recording practices across the force.
We found that 25 out of the 63 actions on the crime-recording improvement plan had been completed, with progress on others ongoing or intended to be for future consideration.
We also note that at the time of our 2017 inspection, the force was rolling out an online crime-recording training package for officers and staff. Over a year later, most response and public protection team officers have completed the training. But around one third of officers and staff from across the whole force and who were required to complete the training are yet to do so. The force has also developed and delivered bespoke crime-recording training for officers and staff working in the public protection units, initial investigation teams and force contact centre. Despite this, some call handlers, response officers and supervisors are still not always sure how they should deal with some types of crime, such as:
- common assault;
- malicious communications; and
- professional third-party reports.
We note that since June 2018, there has been renewed momentum and the force has begun a revised improvement programme intended to address problems with its crime-recording standards. However, we would have expected more progress. It has also updated its bespoke departmental improvement plans, to support the successful implementation of those changes. We have confidence that the plans are sustainable and will lead to improvements.
How effective is the force at recording reported crime?
78.2% of reported violent crimes were recorded
We found that 77.9 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.36 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 13,600 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.
Many of the violent crimes not recorded by the force involve injury, which can cause even further distress for the victim. We therefore find the failure to record reported violent crime to be a serious cause of concern.
In the majority of cases where violent crimes were not recorded, we found the principal causes to be:
- the processes currently in place for recording a reported crime (described earlier);
- officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules, particularly about the complexities of some violence offences such as harassment, malicious communications and common assault; and
- a lack 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 reporting and investigating officers, but from other appropriate agencies, such as Victim Support. In these circumstances, crime-recording is even more important because failing to record a violent crime may mean that Victim Support is not notified that a person has become a victim of violent crime and so cannot offer victims the support they may need and deserve.
We found that 78.2 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.87 percent). In 2017 the force was recording 77.9 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.36 percent). By our estimate the force is now failing to record over 16,600 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, the recording rate remains unacceptable and must be urgently addressed.
When the force does not record a reported violent crime, the principal causes are:
- misunderstanding of the crime-recording rules about some violence offences such as harassment, malicious communications and common assault;
- failures to record multiple crimes in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules;
- failures to record additional crimes disclosed during investigations;
- inconsistent supervision of the crime-recording process and crime-recording decisions, with inadequate safeguards in place to ensure crimes are always recorded correctly;
- reporting officers having difficulty contacting the crime-recording team by telephone to report crimes; and
- the limit on the number of crimes that can be recorded within a single phone call, which sometimes requires officers to end a call then call back to record further reports of crime.
These causes remain consistent with those found during our 2017 inspection and continue to impede effective crime recording. This illustrates the lack of progress made by the force in this regard.
Of the 2,176 reports of crime we audited, we assessed 470 as related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 354. Of the 116 offences not recorded, 95 were violence offences, including:
- common assaults;
- assaults occasioning actual bodily harm;
- harassment; and
- malicious communications.
Many of these were reported directly to the force. But the force didn’t record them as crimes, and we found no clear evidence or explanation as to why. We also found several examples of attending officers letting down victims by simply not believing them. Some incident logs contained closing comments that were completely different to the initial call and recorded no crime, without an adequate explanation.
Call handlers completed an initial risk assessment in all cases. But in nearly half of the cases where officers attended, they carried out no further risk assessment with victims. We also found no record of the force considering safeguarding requirements in 18 of these cases, and in 28 cases it didn’t carry out an investigation.
A victim called to report that her ex-partner was kicking the door of her home, making threats to assault her if she failed to open the door. The caller was clearly distressed on the telephone and sounded fearful. A domestic abuse related public order offence should have been recorded as a crime. The victim was a repeat victim of domestic abuse and the offender is a known domestic violence offender. Officers attended the address but did not record any offences, nor did they provide information to explain why they thought that a crime had not been committed. No investigation took place.
It remains a cause of concern that the force is still under-recording crimes relating to domestic abuse incidents and failing to give many of these victims a satisfactory service.
Victims of violence often need a lot of support. This should come from the reporting and investigating officers, and other appropriate organisations, such as Victim Support. In these circumstances, crime recording is even more important. When the force accurately records a violent crime it can enable victim referrals to be made to important support services.
89.2% of reported sex offences were recorded
The force’s recording of reports of sexual offences (excluding rape) must improve. We found that the force records 91.4 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.63 percent). We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 440 reported sexual offence crimes each year.
Those failings are significant because of the very serious nature of sexual offences and the harm they cause to their victims. We found, for example, that the force failed to record reports of sexual assault against both adults and children and sexual activity with a child.
The causes of that under-recording are similar to those identified above for violent crime:
- the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime;
- officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules, particularly with regard to third-party reports; and
- a lack of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.
Sexual offence victims require significant support from the outset. The failure to record such crimes, to provide appropriate support to the victim, or any delay in attendance or investigation will often result in a lack of confidence in the police and reluctance on behalf of the victim to engage in subsequent stages of the criminal justice system. The force must improve its performance in this respect.
The force records 89.2 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.70 percent). In 2017 the force was recording 91.4 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.63 percent). By our estimate the force is now failing to record over 790 sexual offences that are reported to it each year.
These include rapes and sexual assaults committed against adults and children. The recording standard for sexual offences is unacceptable and remains a cause of concern.
The causes of this under-recording are similar to those identified above for violent crime.
It is particularly important for victims of sexual offence crimes that they are recorded because many of these crimes are very serious in nature and cause significant harm to their victims.
Rape is one of the most serious sexual offence crimes a victim can experience. Therefore, the accurate recording of such reports is especially important. It helps to ensure victims receive the service 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. In turn, this enables the police to operate with the highest practicable levels of efficiency to identify and deal effectively with perpetrators.
We found 167 reports of rape that should have been recorded, but only 150 of these had been 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). Five of these missed records of rape had been classified in error as a different crime.
However, we found that although a crime may not have been recorded, West Midlands Police provided support and safeguarding in all but three of these cases, including referrals to partner organisations when appropriate, and carried out an investigation in all cases. The three cases in which safeguarding did not take place involved victims who refused to engage with the police, which made any investigation and safeguarding difficult.
The reasons for these 17 crimes not being recorded are similar to those for sexual offences:
- the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for recording a reported crime. For example: it is force policy that rape crimes be recorded at the first point of contact, but despite receiving training, call handlers lack the confidence to record crimes of rape, choosing to record a non-crime incident instead;
- officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules. For example, although several of the missed crimes of rape involved multiple offenders, these require a crime record for each offender; but it is clear from our inspection that not all staff are aware of this requirement; and
- a lack of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.
There are, in addition, some problems surrounding the force’s 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 recorded immediately 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 six incident reports for which an N100 classification should have been applied, but it was only applied in three of them.
We also reviewed 19 sample records where an N100 classification had been used. Among these, we found six reports that the force should have recorded as crimes of rape but did not. The remaining 13 were correctly recorded.
We found very little understanding of the N100 classification among frontline officers, including those working in the specialist public protection department or the call centre. Awareness was good in the crime service team. The force must ensure that it uses classification N100 consistently on all relevant occasions in order to minimise the delay in recording an offence of rape.
The recording of a report of rape is important. Victims generally require significant support from the outset and any delay in providing support can harm both the recovery of the victim and any investigation. This, in turn, can have a negative effect on future court proceedings. This is an area for improvement.
144 of 161 audited rape reports were accurately recorded
Rape is one of the most serious crimes a victim can experience. To give victims confidence that the police will believe their report, 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.
Since our 2017 inspection, the force has not improved its crime recording for reports of rape. This remains a cause of concern.
We found that only 144 of the 161 rape crimes we examined had been correctly recorded. Of the unrecorded rapes:
- eight were not recorded at all;
- one was misclassified as a sexual assault; and
- eight had an N100 recorded instead (see below).
In eight of these unrecorded reports of rape, we couldn’t find a record to show that the force had taken safeguarding actions. However in four of these cases, officers had no opportunities to complete any safeguarding with victims because they had either disengaged from the outset or had refused to speak with officers thereafter. In three of these eight cases the force didn’t undertake an investigation.
A vulnerable female caller, suffering with mental health problems, reported being pressured on several occasions into having sex with a relative. This had been reported to other agencies who had encouraged her to report the offences to the police. Exerting pressure to obtain consent for sex amounts to rape, because true consent has not been obtained. A crime of rape should have been recorded and investigated. No safeguarding measures were put in place for the victim, no crime was recorded, and no investigation was undertaken.
When forces don’t record a reported rape as a crime, they must apply a Home Office classification N100.
We checked 19 N100 records. Of these:
- five were later correctly turned into recorded rape crimes after receiving victim confirmation;
- two should have been recorded as rape crimes from the outset but were wrongly recorded as N100s;
- one was incorrectly classified as an N100 as it was not a report of rape; and
- the remaining 11 were correctly recorded.
Separately, we also reviewed 19 sample records where the force should have used an N100 classification, but it only did so in 12 of these. We also identified significant delays in how quickly the force both recorded N100s and, where required, later converted them to a recorded rape crime.
We found that officers, including detectives, knew that a rape crime differs from a rape incident. But they were still unfamiliar with the term N100. We noted this as an area for improvement for the force in our 2017 report and it therefore remains.
The force’s approach to recording rape reports and using classification N100 indicates that it doesn’t always accept the original report as presented by the victim when recording reports of rape. This is unacceptable, and the force must act immediately to stop this practice where it occurs.
It is essential to record a rape report correctly as a crime as soon as possible. Victims will often need a great deal of support from the start. Any delay, or failure to record the crime, can have a negative impact on both the victim’s recovery and any investigation.
How efficiently do the systems and processes in the force support accurate crime recording?
Crime reports held on other systems
In order to be confident that vulnerable victims always receive the support they need, West Midlands Police must improve its recording of crimes reported directly to its public protection teams.
We examined 50 vulnerable victim records on the crime system. We found that 14 crimes should have been recorded, but only eight had been. The missing six crimes included one case of child neglect, two assaults, one sexual assault and two thefts.
The reasons for these six crimes not being recorded are the same as were identified for sexual offences. In addition, staff working in public protection teams need a better understanding of the crime-recording expectations for reports of crime received from third parties.
4 of 15 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded
To be confident that vulnerable victims receive the support they need, it is important that crimes reported directly to public protection teams are always recorded.
We examined 50 vulnerable victim records and found that 15 crimes should have been recorded. Of these, only four had been. The unrecorded crimes committed against adult victims included:
- criminal damage;
- possession of a bladed weapon; and
The unrecorded crimes committed against child victims included:
- a sexual assault;
- harassment; and
- inflicting grievous bodily harm.
These results indicate that the force still has more to do to ensure it records crimes reported directly to its public protection teams.
In all cases we found the victim had received sufficient safeguarding, which was positive. Several of these unrecorded crimes related to reports received from professional third parties. We found evidence that some officers and staff still don’t understand the crime-recording rules about crime reports made by these parties. The force completed proportionate investigations in all but two cases. In these two cases, multi-agency discussions agreed that social services would be responsible for the investigation. Both have since been correctly recorded as crimes.
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 the force’s understanding of the origin of such reports.
We examined 20 reports which the force had recorded as modern slavery crimes. These were all correctly recorded. From these reports we also found the force should have also recorded another seven crimes of other classifications and had recorded five. The two missing crimes included one report of rape and one of common assault. In addition, from our main incident audit we also found one report of modern slavery which was not recorded as a crime.
The force also produced a list of 14 modern slavery intelligence logs for audit. From these we found that four modern slavery crimes should have been recorded; two were recorded.
The force works regionally, nationally and internationally to tackle modern slavery. A dedicated sergeant for modern slavery leads the force’s response in this area. The force is considering whether to introduce a force-wide modern slavery team to address this growing problem.
Officers and staff have a good, basic knowledge of modern slavery offences. We also found that they have a good, basic knowledge of their respective responsibilities in relation to the recording of such offences and where they can find further information.
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 examined 20 modern slavery crimes and found the force correctly recorded 18. It also correctly recorded eight rapes and three other crimes associated with these reports. But we found that it didn’t record one rape crime and two assaults. Two modern slavery crimes were recorded unnecessarily.
We also looked at 20 reports of modern slavery received through the national referral mechanism. None of these required a crime record to be created.
The force has therefore made progress since our 2017 report to make sure it correctly records modern slavery crimes, which is worthy of note. It now has a suitable database in which to record referrals about modern slavery reports, and a robust process for dealing with them. The force continues to work locally, regionally, nationally and with partner agencies to address modern slavery. It plans to set up a modern slavery hub where it will work alongside partners.
The HOCR require that reports of crime are recorded within 24 hours of receipt of the report. We found that, of the reports of crime that had been recorded by West Midlands Police, only 119 out of 150 reports of rape, 365 out of 448 reports of violent crime, 149 out of 180 sexual offences (excluding rape) and 422 out of 453 other offences had been recorded within 24 hours of receipt of the report.
Although some victims may be referred to support agencies in other ways, 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 this team can provide, these delays are unacceptable.
We found that these delays can be attributed to:
- not always recording all crimes reported as part of a single incident;
- delays in reaching the crime service team on the telephone;
- the failure to always record a reported crime at the first opportunity, sometimes delaying this until after an appointment with the victim; and
- the process applied by some call handlers when they initially record reports of rape as non-crime incidents.
The rules require forces to record crimes within 24 hours of receiving a report. West Midlands Police now does this less often than it did during our 2017 inspection. Given that it now records more reports of crime at the first point of contact, this is disappointing.
The increased delays in recording are most significant for violent crime. The force recorded just 445 out of 594 violence offences within 24 hours of the report.
The reasons for these delays are the same as those we found in our 2017 inspection. Namely:
- not always recording all crimes reported as part of a single incident;
- delays in reaching the crime service team on the telephone;
- not always recording a reported crime as soon as possible;
- sometimes not recording a reported crime until after an appointment with the victim; and
- some call handlers wrongly recording rape reports as non-crime incidents.
The delay in recording a crime report delays the victim’s referral to Victim Support. Prompt recording is therefore important to victim care.
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.
We reviewed 20 cancelled recorded crimes each of rape, violence, sexual offence crimes (excluding rape) and robbery. Of these, we found that the FCR had correctly cancelled all the rape crimes. Other crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of designated staff, known as designated decision-makers (DDMs). The DDMs had correctly cancelled 19 out of 20 sexual offences, 15 out of 20 violence offences and 15 out of 20 robbery offences.
We also found that many officers and staff had a good understanding of what counts as AVI for the purpose of cancelling a recorded crime.
A victim should always be informed of the status of his or her reported crime when a crime has been cancelled or transferred to another force for investigation. 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 78 out of 80 occasions. This is good and demonstrates appropriate consideration of victims’ needs.
All crime cancellations, except rape, are made by designated decision makers. Rape cancellation decisions are made by the force crime registrar. We found that all rape cancellations were correct. The force also correctly cancelled:
- 15 out of 19 violence offences;
- 17 out of 20 sexual offences; and
- 13 out of 16 robbery offences.
While it manages rape cancellations well, the force should improve crime cancellation decision making in these other categories. We also note that on occasion it wrongly uses a ‘crime created in error’ classification, known as a C4. This means that substantive crimes that should still be recorded are not, and the justification for removing the crime record does not meet the standard required for a crime cancellation. Nor are victims always informed of the decision to cancel their crime record in this way. The force needs to ensure that this classification is only used in appropriate circumstances and that the recording standards for crime cancellations are used where cancellation is justified.
Of those crimes cancelled correctly we were pleased to find that the force informed 49 victims about its decision to cancel a crime, out of the 50 it should have told.
HMICFRS found that the force must improve in 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 helps 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.
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 is therefore an area for improvement.
The force doesn’t routinely record information about the disability, religion or sexual orientation of victims, unless they are known features of the crime itself. But we found that it did record information on the age, gender and nationality of victims in most cases.
Attempts to obtain and record a wider range of equality information from victims of crime have been introduced. However, these were described as hindering the effective recording of crime, and often victims were reluctant to provide the information requested. Consequently, the force hasn’t yet improved its collection of information about the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities since our 2017 inspection.
How well does the force demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?
Despite the deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes, including the limited supervision applied to crime-recording decisions, overall we found strong leadership from senior officers in West Midlands Police in regard to crime-recording expectations, and an approach among the majority of officers and staff that places the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions.
The force has made good progress against the national action plan, developed by the national policing lead on crime statistics after our 2014 report, which all forces have been asked to implement.
Additionally, good progress has been made with implementing changes recommended in our 2014 report, and as a result the force has satisfactorily completed eight out of ten of these recommendations. Those not completed have been superseded by the new recommendations above.
We also found that the FCR, supported by a fully accredited deputy and a small team of staff, carries out very regular crime-recording audits. These follow the national guidance provided by the Home Office. This is good practice. It is also encouraging that the force is considering how the expertise of the FCR and his team can be used to improve the crime-recording audits being carried out locally by different departments and which are intended to provide a better view of crime-recording standards.
The force recognises that its initial efforts to improve crime recording did not achieve the traction it expected and that it still has a lot of work to do.
The DCC takes the lead for CDI. From September 2017 governance was managed through the Strategic Information Management Board. In May 2018, an updated improvement programme, intended to address the ongoing problems with crime recording, was introduced. And in June 2018, the DCC commissioned a force-wide ‘reality testing’ exercise. The force used the findings from this to further refresh its improvement plan. This now contains detailed actions for each of the causes of concern, recommendations and areas for improvement we gave in our 2017 report, which is a positive development. But the force’s own assessment shows that it hasn’t yet made enough progress against each of these recommendations and areas for improvement.
In July 2018 the DCC established a CDI gold group to manage and monitor the introduction of the required improvements. And the DCC has also approved a 12-month audit plan which replicates the approach to audit taken by HMICFRS.
We also note that the force has updated its departmental CDI improvement plans with bespoke actions required to improve crime recording in each department. This is welcome.
In our 2017 report we recommended that the force should review the operating arrangements of its force control centre and ensure that these arrangements secure the recording of all reported crimes at the first point of report when sufficient information exists to do so and in any event within 24 hours of receipt of the report. The force chose not to implement this recommendation. It considered that such a change was not viable, due to the volume of calls for service received and the operational impact on the force contact centre. As crime recording at the point of contact was identified as an effective tool to secure good crime-recording standards in our 2014 thematic report and has been shown to be effective in forces elsewhere, we encourage the force to re-consider this decision.
West Midlands Police has made limited progress with improving its crime-recording standards since our 2017 report, although we have seen evidence of renewed impetus with regard to securing sustainable improvements during our inspection. We welcome these signs and are confident the force will pay urgent attention to address the outstanding causes of concern and areas for improvement, to improve its service to victims of crime.
We expect the force to fully address the recommendations and areas for improvement given in our 2017 inspection. We will continue to monitor the force and will re-inspect to assess its progress.