Essex PEEL 2016
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Essex Police is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our overall judgment is an improvement on last year, when we judged the force to require improvement.
The force has an effective approach to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, investigating crime and tackling serious and organised crime. The force has greatly improved the way it protects vulnerable people, including victims of domestic abuse, but still needs to do more in this area.
Essex Police is good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. It understands the communities it serves and the threats they face. The force regularly seeks the views of the public and acts on this feedback to prioritise its activities.
Every neighbourhood has a community policing team made up of police officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) who spend most of their time carrying out community engagement and prevention activity. The force has a structured and collaborative approach to problem solving and there are good examples of partnership working, such as with local councils. The force learns from best practice to provide better services for the public, although it could do more to develop its evidence base on the most effective ways to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
Essex Police is good at investigating crime and reducing re-offending. The force uses a structured approach to assess whether calls require an officer to attend. Officers ensure evidence is collected and preserved effectively. However, the force needs to promote awareness of its local digital media investigators and improve its ability to retrieve digital evidence quickly.
The force has made improvements in how it tracks and arrests those people who pose a risk to the public, including those who are wanted and outstanding suspects. It has a well-established integrated offender management scheme that includes some domestic abuse offenders. The force is under pressure to deal with increasing numbers of registered sex offenders and is piloting a new approach in this area; however it must ensure that its management of these offenders is appropriate at all times and minimises the risk to the public.
The force has greatly improved its response to people who are vulnerable since 2015, but more still needs to be done. There are clear systems and processes in place to direct officers in their actions and the force has removed the absent classification for children which has provided greater clarity for the force in the approach and response to these individuals. However, it should make better use of data from partner organisations to ensure it has the fullest possible understanding of risks to those who are vulnerable. The force also lacks an effective county-wide multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH), although it is working hard to bring other partners on board.
The public can have confidence in the force’s ability not just to pursue and disrupt organised criminals but also to prevent organised crime from taking root in its communities. The force works with Kent Police to tackle the most serious and harmful organised criminals, but combating serious organised crime is increasingly the responsibility of all frontline officers. The force is taking a longer-term approach to tackling organised crime groups and although it regularly seeks serious crime prevention orders it has been successful in a very few.
Essex Police’s work with street gangs is proving to be effective. It also works with communities to help prevent young people from being drawn into gangs or organised criminality, and it is increasing its work in this area.
Essex Police has good plans to mobilise in response to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR). It undertakes exercises with partner organisations, such as other forces and the military, and amends its plans in response to lessons learned. The force is well prepared to respond to a firearms attack and continues to train authorised firearms officers to keep numbers at the required levels.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Essex Police is good at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe. The force has a satisfactory understanding of the communities it serves and the threats they face. It is good at analysing traditional threats (such as burglary and robbery) and it has also produced profiles of new and emerging threats. Community policing teams are central to community work. These teams of officers and PCSOs work closely with the public, gathering information and acting on local priorities. There are good examples of working with partner organisations in local policing areas, in particular in the community safety hubs where officers are co-located with these organisations. However, more needs to be done to obtain data from partner organisations to better inform crime and anti-social behaviour prevention.
The force has made reducing and preventing anti-social behaviour a priority and so the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour has become a routine part of neighbourhood policing activity. It has a structured and collaborative approach to problem solving and it deploys specially trained crime-prevention advisers.
The force has improved and continues to improve how it learns from best practice and the established evidence in order to provide better services for the public. However, it could do more to develop its evidence base on the most effective ways to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
Areas for improvement
- The force should evaluate and share effective practice routinely, both internally and with partner organisations, to continually improve its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Essex Police is good at investigating crime and managing offenders. The force is good at providing an initial investigative response. The control room ensures evidence is collected and preserved effectively and it uses a structured approach to assess whether calls require an officer to attend. Generally, the force investigates crimes well across a range of crime types. Despite investment in digital evidence collection, officers are unaware of what support is available to them.
The force has worked hard to improve the service it offers victims, in particular complying with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime and the completion of victims’ personal statements.
Essex Police has made improvements in how it tracks and arrests those people who pose a risk to the public, including wanted persons and outstanding suspects. It has a well-established integrated offender management scheme which includes some domestic abuse offenders; importantly, staff have received training in how to manage these offenders.
The force is under pressure to manage increasing numbers of registered sex offenders and while it is piloting a new approach to these offenders it must ensure that their management is appropriate at all times. It has good processes in place and works well with other organisations to manage the most dangerous offenders and registered sex offenders, but these processes are also under pressure because of increased demand.
Areas for improvement
- The force should promote the existence and benefit of its local digital media investigators and its phone triage kiosks and trained staff. This will improve its ability to retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices quickly enough to ensure that investigations are not delayed.
- The force should ensure that the risks posed by registered sex offenders are managed effectively. It should review its pilot in the management of registered sex offenders as soon as possible to assess if it is a viable approach.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Essex Police has made significant improvements in the way in which it recognises and responds to people who are vulnerable. The force has an understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability in its local areas, but this is based primarily on police data. Staff understanding of vulnerability continues to improve and control room staff are good at identifying risk when someone calls the police. All frontline staff follow a clear procedure to address risk and vulnerability and understand the need to take positive action in cases of domestic abuse. However, sometimes response to domestic abuse cases is delayed while control room staff wait for the production of an intelligence pack.
There are clear systems and processes in place for the management of missing persons, and the force has removed the absent classification for children, which has provided greater clarity on the approach and response to these individuals.
Public protection and domestic abuse investigative teams appear to be sufficiently resourced, but we found instances of officers undertaking roles and investigations for which they were not qualified or trained and with little obvious support from more experienced colleagues. The force has more work to do in the management of outstanding suspects because good practice and results are not being replicated across all areas.
The force has not yet been able to convince partner organisations to join them in effective multi-agency safeguarding hubs (MASH). Without these, victims may receive a poorer level of service than they otherwise would as provision of help is not as co-ordinated as it could be. The force’s public protection operations centre is very similar to a MASH but without the co-located partner agencies, and it would be a significant step forward if the force was able to get all its partner agencies to accept the effectiveness of a county MASH.
The force’s response to domestic abuse continues to improve and the support to victims of high-risk domestic abuse is good, with positive action at the scene, structured joint agency safeguarding and good outcomes for victims.
Areas for improvement
- The force should include data and information from partner organisations within its problem profiles and strategic assessments to enhance its understanding of vulnerability and provide a fuller picture of crime and anti-social behaviour in Essex. It should also consider developing a missing person problem profile.
- The force should ensure that officers undertake roles for which they are qualified and trained, and if, for practical reasons, an officer is required to undertake a role without such qualifications and training, that suitable support is available to them at all times.
- The force should ensure that processes to reduce outstanding offenders are consistently applied so that the processes are effective and efficient across the whole force.
- The force should continue to develop an effective county multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) so that victims are offered the best possible multi-agency service.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Essex Police is good at tackling serious and organised crime. It is improving its response to newer organised crime threats, such as human trafficking, cyber-crime and child sexual exploitation. The force tackles high-level serious and organised crime in collaboration with Kent Police through a joint unit which allows both forces to combine specialist capabilities. This ensures well-managed investigations. It also enables the force to target the most harmful organised crime groups with a range of activity from prosecuting organised crime group members to making it harder for the organised crime group to operate.
The force has improved how it gathers and uses intelligence, particularly that held by other relevant partner organisations, such as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and Border Force. Essex Police ensures that it applies the most resources to the organised crime groups which cause the most harm. Its policy on how it scores these organised crime groups for the harm they cause and how often it re-visits this scoring is now consistent with national guidance.
Frontline officers have a good knowledge of local organised crime groups, which should assist the force in preventing organised crime, for example identifying those who are at risk of being drawn into organised crime, and also assist working with other policing authorities and other interested parties.
The force is taking a longer-term approach to organised crime group management and it regularly seeks serious crime prevention orders, although it has been successful in very few. Work has been commissioned with the Crown Prosecution Service to understand why the failure rate is so high and what can be done to make the force more effective and efficient in this area.
Areas for improvement
- The force should develop further its serious and organised crime local profile, in conjunction with other policing authorities and other interested parties and organisations, to enhance its understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime and to inform joint activity aimed at reducing this threat.
The force should engage routinely with partner agencies at a senior level to enhance intelligence sharing and promote an effective, multi-agency response to serious and organised crime.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Essex Police has good plans to mobilise in response to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement. The force regularly tests these plans and makes amendments following the lessons learned. Operational deployments in support of regional colleagues have been successful.
The force is well prepared to respond to a firearms attack. It has recently reviewed its assessment of threat, risk and harm and this now includes the threats posed by marauding firearms terrorists. Essex Police is not part of the national armed policing uplift programme but is working to retain its capability in this area.