Northamptonshire PEEL 2016
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our overall judgment is the same as last year, when we judged the force to require improvement.
Northamptonshire Police has weaknesses across a range of areas. Crime prevention activity, investigative standards and the safeguarding provided to vulnerable victims all need to improve. The force has adequate arrangements in place to fulfil its national policing responsibilities, but needs to address shortcomings in its approach to tackling serious and organised crime.
Northamptonshire Police’s effectiveness in keeping people safe and reducing crime requires improvement.
Northamptonshire Police has introduced a force-wide approach to problem-solving long-term crime and anti-social behaviour problems, known as SARA – scan, analyse, review and assess. The SARA model is a simple problem-solving approach used by many police forces. However, it is not being used systematically because staff are too frequently taken away from their community policing roles to cover other duties elsewhere.
The quality of investigations by the force is inconsistent and needs to improve. Investigations are not always allocated to appropriately trained staff, investigation handovers are sometimes poor and there is a lack of supervisory oversight. Vacancies in the criminal investigations department have resulted in a high proportion of serious and complex crimes being dealt with by trainee detectives, which means that victims do not always receive the level of service they should.
The force’s management of suspects was identified as an area for improvement in HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness report and we found little evidence of progress. The level of oversight and scrutiny of outstanding suspects, forensic DNA and fingerprint identification packages is inconsistent. However, Northamptonshire Police makes good use of its integrated offender management scheme.
The force has made some improvements since HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness report in the way it supports vulnerable people. People may be vulnerable through their age, disability, or because they have been subjected to repeated offences, or are at high risk of abuse, for example. Incidents are assessed and managed adequately by control room staff. They use a proven process known as THRIVE (threat, harm, risk, investigation, vulnerable and engagement) to inform decision-making. The workforce has a better awareness of vulnerability and of how to identify it. However, standards of investigation and safeguarding for domestic abuse victims remain inconsistent.
The force has a partial understanding of serious and organised crime, but its ability to respond effectively is hampered by an increase in gang violence. Community policing teams have limited awareness of organised crime groups and the force does not consistently involve them in tackling organised crime.
Northamptonshire Police has adequate plans to mobilise in response to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement, but the force needs to ensure staff know what to do in the event of a terrorist firearms attack.
Many of the problems identified in this year’s inspection relate to the workforce not being aligned or suitably skilled to deal with demand. Supervisors are not given the right management information to allow them to manage their areas of responsibility effectively, and governance structures are missing. The force’s change programme aims to address many of these problems.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Northamptonshire Police’s effectiveness in preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe requires improvement. The force acknowledges that it needs to review how it distributes response officers and its staff within safer community teams to meet demand. Limited direction to officers and assigning of tasks means the force may not be making the best use of its available resources for preventing crime and anti-social behaviour. Activities that safe community teams undertake may not be fully aligned with the priorities of the force.
We were pleased to find that the force has introduced a structured problem-solving model, but we found that safer community teams are frequently unable to carry out problem-solving activities because they are required to perform reactive duties.
The force does not have the right number of officers and staff in the right areas to meet current or future demand. Police officers in safer community teams are regularly required to support response policing, so they cannot undertake meaningful crime-prevention, problem-solving or engagement activities.
Areas for improvement
- The force should work with local people and partner organisations to improve its understanding of local communities, including those which are less likely to communicate with the police such as migrant communities or elderly people.
- The force should improve its ability to analyse information and intelligence to provide a better understanding of crime and anti-social behaviour in Northamptonshire, and enable it to focus activity effectively.
- The force should ensure that safer community teams regularly engage with local communities, and undertake structured problem-solving alongside partner organisations in order to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour.
- 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?
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement in investigating crime and reducing re-offending. The force manages most incidents adequately, with control room staff using a standard risk assessment process to inform decision making. However, staff shortages in response teams and CID mean that opportunities to capture evidence from crime scenes are sometimes missed because response staff are diverted to deal with other incidents.
Investigations are not consistently allocated to appropriately trained staff. The force conducts investigations of inconsistent quality and investigation handovers are sometimes poor. Investigations lack supervision.
The vacancy problem in CID has resulted in a high proportion of serious and complex crimes being dealt with by trainee detectives. However, the force does ensure that all reports of rape are dealt with by trained detectives.
The management of suspects was identified as an area for improvement in HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness report and we found little evidence of progress. The level of oversight and scrutiny of outstanding suspects, forensic DNA and fingerprint identification packages is inconsistent. We found some signs of progress to broaden those offenders managed by the Integrated Offender Management (IOM) scheme.
Staff shortages have resulted in about 200 home visits to some registered sex offenders not being completed within recommended timescales.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that all reported incidents are thoroughly and promptly assessed to determine the most appropriate response.
- The force should ensure that all investigations are completed to a consistently good standard, and in a timely manner.
- The force should ensure that there is regular and active supervision of investigations to improve quality and progress.
- The force should ensure that the risks posed by registered sex offenders are managed effectively.
- The force should ensure that those who are circulated as wanted on the police national computer, those who fail to appear on police bail, named and outstanding suspects and suspects identified through forensic evidence are swiftly located and arrested.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
Northamptonshire Police has made improvements since HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness (vulnerability) report, but still requires improvement in protecting those who are vulnerable from harm and supporting victims. Staff across the organisation have a good awareness of vulnerability and how to identify it. Some good safeguarding activity is taking place.
The force continues to respond effectively to those at risk of child sexual exploitation, working closely with partners to keep victims and potential victims safe. Vulnerability factors are identified by control room staff, but the process is manual and inefficient because of the limited use of ‘flags’ and markers on relevant computer systems.
The force’s structures and staffing levels currently mean that domestic abuse victims receive inconsistent standards of investigation and safeguarding, depending on where they live. Some domestic abuse cases are being managed through a scheduled appointment, which could lead to missed investigative and safeguarding opportunities.
Multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) are well managed. The attendance of partner agencies, such as health, education and social services is maximised through having several different MARACs held regularly across the county.
The multi-agency safeguarding hub responds effectively, with police and partner organisations working together to safeguard families and children.
Areas for improvement
- The force should review how it deals with open domestic abuse cases in the control room to ensure that initial opportunities to safeguard the victim and investigate the offence are not being missed due to unnecessary delays.
- The force should improve its investigation of domestic abuse cases by ensuring officers and staff with the appropriate professional skills and experience investigate cases, especially complex cases, and are able to provide the ongoing safeguarding required. The force should ensure that these investigations are supervised effectively.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Northamptonshire Police requires improvement at tackling serious and organised crime. The force has a partial understanding of emerging and traditional serious and organised crime threats. Organised crime groups are mapped, assessed and reviewed as per national guidance.
The force’s ability to tackle serious and organised crime is currently hampered by an increased gang problem. Resources aligned to tackle serious and organised crime are currently focused on gang violence or are required to support CID with complex investigations because of CID’s staff shortages.
The force does not have a force-wide strategic partnership board but relies on the local community safety partnership arrangements to undertake joint problem-solving. These arrangements are in their infancy. Community policing teams have limited awareness of organised crime groups and the force does not consistently involve community teams in organised crime group management plans. The force is able to show some effect of its activity on serious and organised crime, but any long-term sustainable impact is minimised because of its lack of mature partnership with community safety partnerships, current resourcing challenges and increasing gang threats.
Preventative activity is not widespread. The force makes some use of the media to help raise awareness of serious and organised crime.
Areas for improvement
- The force should further develop its serious and organised crime local profile in conjunction with partner 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.
- The force should engage routinely with partner organisations in order to increase its ability to disrupt and investigate serious and organised crime.
- The force should assign capable lead responsible officers to all active organised crime groups as part of a long-term, multi-agency approach to dismantling them. These officers should have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, and adopt a 4Ps structure for organised crime group management plans.
- The force should improve the awareness of organised crime groups among neighbourhood teams to ensure that they can reliably identify these groups, collect intelligence and disrupt their activity.
- The force should improve the quality of its action plan that sets out the steps it will take to maximise use of regional organised crime unit capabilities, minimise duplication at force level and ensure that the use of shared regional organised crime unit (ROCU) resources is prioritised effectively between forces in the East Midlands region.
- The force should ensure that it has sufficient operational and investigative resources aligned to tackle serious and organised criminals who do not meet the threshold for East Midlands special operations unit (EMSOU) to deal with.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Northamptonshire Police has adequate plans to mobilise in response to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement.
The force is partially prepared to respond to a marauding terrorist firearms attack. However, not all staff have been trained to know what to do in such a scenario.
The force is part of a collaboration called the East Midlands operational support services, which has adequately assessed the threat of an attack requiring an armed response. Plans are in place to increase firearms capability by March 2017. Progress is being made with an interim plan and the recruitment of officers to achieve the budgeted number of firearms officers.