Thames Valley 2014Read more about Thames Valley
This is the first PEEL Assessment of Thames Valley Police. In making this assessment I have used my professional judgment to consider the evidence available from inspections undertaken in the past 12 months.
The available evidence indicates that:
in terms of its effectiveness, in general, the force is good at reducing crime and preventing offending, is good at investigating crime and good at tackling anti-social behaviour;
the efficiency with which the force carries out its responsibilities is good; and
the force is acting to achieve fairness and legitimacy in most of the practices that were examined this year.
Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
In making this first PEEL Assessment of Thames Valley I have taken into account the challenges to policing in the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire which make up the force area.
Thames Valley Police is one of the largest geographic forces in England. Communities are diverse, with densely populated urban and large rural areas and growing black and minority ethnic communities. The Thames Valley area draws in large numbers of visitors to famous sites, it has a large student population and many business travellers. In the Thames Valley Police area there are 18 local authorities at district, county and unitary level.
I have been impressed by the way that Thames Valley Police has continued to cut crime. It has seen one of the biggest reductions in crime and anti-social behaviour in England and Wales. The force has low overall crime levels and maintains high levels of victim satisfaction. Investigations of crime are generally carried out to a good standard by well-trained and skilled officers, particularly in the case of victims assessed to be at significant risk of harm.
Neighbourhood officers are focusing on preventing crimes and resolving local problems. They work well with partners to tackle community concerns – in particular anti-social behaviour. The force has a rigorous approach to assessing the level of risk posed by anti-social behaviour and the identification of repeat and vulnerable victims.
Thames Valley Police has demonstrated a good response to the funding challenge. It is now planning further significant cost reductions, while continuing to fight crime and keep its communities safe. It is particularly impressive that the force has been able to achieve significant savings with a considerably smaller reduction in officer and staff numbers than other forces and has managed to increase the numbers of officers and staff in frontline roles.
However, I have concerns about the force’s approach to crime-recording, which is not as accurate as it should be.
Our intention is to examine leadership specifically as part of future PEEL Assessments, once criteria have been established. This will allow us to take account of the College of Policing review of leadership that is currently underway.
Operation Bullfinch was a significant investigation into child sexual exploitation undertaken by Thames Valley Police. The force has taken a number of steps to address the lessons learned from that and similar investigations. The improvements the force has made are aimed at reducing the risk of these types of offences occurring in the future, and thereby minimising the risk of harm to children in the Thames Valley. I will continue to monitor the force’s progress in this regard closely. I am also interested to see how the force responds to the other areas HMIC has identified for improvement over the next 12 months.
How well the force tackles crime
Thames Valley Police is good at reducing crime and preventing offending. The force is good at investigating crime. It is good at tackling anti-social behaviour.
Thames Valley has a good track record at cutting crime; it has seen one of the biggest reductions in crime and anti-social behaviour in England and Wales. The force has low overall crime levels and maintains high levels of victim satisfaction.
The force has a good understanding of local priorities and clearly targets resources at fighting crimes that matter most for local people. In spite of financial austerity and cuts elsewhere in the force, it has managed to put extra staff in frontline roles and specialist teams investigating crimes such as child sexual exploitation and on-line grooming. HMIC found that the force is effective in investigating offending, with well-trained staff and well-managed investigations. Although victim satisfaction is high, more work needs to be done to ensure that victims receive an improved level of service from officers investigating their crimes. Victims need to be kept informed about what is happening with their case.
Neighbourhood officers are focusing on preventing crimes and resolving local problems. They work well with partners to tackle community concerns – in particular, anti-social behaviour – and there has been a reduction in the number of incidents reported. The rate of anti-social behaviour in Thames Valley is now under half that seen across England and Wales.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that the public could have confidence that generally the police provided a good service to victims of domestic abuse and kept them safe. The inspection found that victims at the greatest risk of harm received a more bespoke service from specialist officers. However, more could be done for victims assessed as medium or standard risk. The custody inspection of police custody suites found that people held in police custody were generally well cared for but health care needed to improve. The crime inspection found evidence that the public in the Thames Valley area can have confidence that generally the police provide a good service to victims of domestic abuse and help keep them safe.
The crime inspection found that organised criminal group management and disruption were robust, with other forces and agencies being involved when needed. Actions to disrupt organised crime groups at a local level were discussed through the tasking and coordinating processes, but there is a need for more information to be shared with neighbourhood officers. Some investigators have received a one-week cyber-crime training course which will improve the force response to increases in cyber-enabled and digital crime.
How well the force delivers value for money
Thames Valley Police has risen to the challenge of the spending review and continues to prepare for future funding reductions. Keeping communities safe remains at the heart of its approach.
Thames Valley is on track to achieve its required savings of £58.9m over this spending review period, and to meet its further financial challenge in 2015/16. Importantly, the force is also looking beyond this period and is planning now for further funding reductions and future financial pressures.
HMIC is reassured by the level of detail that underpins Thames Valley’s saving plans. It is also reassured that the force plans to be able to reduce costs significantly while continuing to fight crime and keep its communities safe.
The force has a good understanding of the issues facing it, and it has a comprehensive and well-managed strategy in place to achieve the required savings, while minimising as far as possible the impact on frontline policing.
Within its plans, the force is focusing on non-pay costs and it has been able to achieve savings with a considerably smaller reduction in officer and staff numbers than other forces. At the same time, Thames Valley stands out as having increased the actual numbers of officers and staff in frontline roles.
This is commendable and demonstrates both the ambition and commitment of the force to maintain the confidence of communities and keep them safe. Thames Valley continues to provide a high-quality policing service to its communities. Over the spending review period, the force has achieved the highest reduction in crime in comparison to other forces, it has low overall crime levels and maintains high levels of victim satisfaction.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
The chief officer team provides strong leadership and the ethical stance of the chief constable and deputy chief constable is recognised across the force. The force is committed to embracing the Code of Ethics. There is good evidence of staff challenging unprofessional behaviour, and effective systems are in place to identify wrongdoing. The processes for identifying and addressing the risks posed by misconduct, unprofessional behaviour and corruption are effective.
Further insights on legitimacy
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (12 months to March 2013) found that the proportion of respondents who think that the force does an excellent/good job was greater than the figure across England and Wales. The same survey over the same period also found that the proportion who agree that the force deals with local concerns was broadly in line with the figure for England and Wales. The force’s own victim satisfaction survey (12 months to June 2014) found that the proportion of victims who were satisfied with their experience was greater than the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found that supervisors in the control rooms conducted some monitoring of call taking, that tended to be focused on higher risk call types; the results of this monitoring were fed back to staff on a one-to-one basis. The domestic abuse inspection found that staff were confident and empathetic when dealing with callers and understood that being a repeat victim, or vulnerable, placed a victim at greater risk, which influenced their decision as to the urgency of police response. However, for officers attending a domestic abuse incident, more could be done to speed up the background information provided to help them assess the risk posed to the victim, offender or others at the scene.
As a result of the crime data integrity inspection HMIC is concerned that a notable proportion of reports of crime are not being recorded by the force. This means that victims of crime are not receiving the service they should when they first report a crime. However, HMIC is impressed with the accuracy of the decisions taken by the force when making no-crime decisions (cancelling a recorded crime), nearly all of which are correct.