Sussex PEEL 2016
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Sussex Police requires improvement in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Our overall judgment this year is a deterioration on last year, when we judged the force to be good in respect of effectiveness.
The force needs to improve its approach to preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. Its effectiveness at investigating crime and reducing re-offending also requires improvement. The force is good at tackling serious and organised crime, but HMIC is concerned about the force’s response to some vulnerable people as it does not always safeguard the victims of domestic abuse early enough, and it has failed to bring some perpetrators to justice.
Sussex Police needs to improve the way it prevents crime and anti-social behaviour. At the time of HMIC’s inspection the force was mid-way through a long term change programme aimed at improving the way it works in the neighbourhoods. This has had a negative effect on areas which HMIC has previously judged to be good. We found neighbourhood staff are too often taken away from preventative policing and enforcement activities to cover reactive duties, limiting their ability to respond to community concerns. The force is confident that these problems will be addressed when a new local policing model is introduced April 2017.
Sussex Police’s effectiveness at investigating crime and reducing re-offending also requires improvement. Its initial investigative response to a crime is generally good, and its ability to retrieve digital evidence has improved. However, the overall quality of investigations is inconsistent and investigations into less serious crimes are often poorly supervised.
The force could do more to target violent criminals and perpetrators of domestic abuse. The type of offenders in its integrated offender management scheme has not been adjusted to match local and national priorities and mainly includes perpetrators of theft, burglary and robbery. A high number of visits to registered sex offenders are overdue, meaning that offenders are not being monitored effectively, potentially exposing communities to unnecessary risk.
Sussex Police also needs to improve its effectiveness in the way it protects vulnerable people from harm and supports victims. The force’s response to domestic abuse is a cause of concern. Arrest of domestic abuse perpetrators and charge rates have fallen in the last year, and without a comprehensive understanding of the reasons for this, the force cannot take appropriate steps to address these weaknesses. A new system of carrying out risk assessments of victims of domestic abuse over phone has been introduced, which aims to resolve so called non-urgent calls after they have been graded by the contact centre. This is of serious concern to HMIC as In some of the cases we examined, the full extent of the risk to the victim and any children involved was not fully identified, and actions taken to deal with the perpetrator were inappropriate. These failings present risks to victims which we drew to the attention of the force. It is recommended that he force should cease this practice. Although most staff in the control room have received training, we found examples of vulnerable victims being graded incorrectly, and children being recorded as absent in circumstances where they should have been recorded as missing.
The force is good at tackling serious and organised crime. It has a good understanding of the threats posed to its communities by organised criminals, but this could be improved by including information from partner organisations. However, the force should do more to identify those people who may be at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime, and take action to deter offending.
Sussex Police has good plans to ensure that it can respond to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement, including firearms incidents. It collaborates with Surrey Police and the two forces have effective procedures to test their preparedness to respond to civil emergencies and public order incidents. The force has a comprehensive training programme for firearms officers and firearms commanders, which is often carried out jointly with other forces in the south east region.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
As a result of reducing the number of staff working in the neighbourhoods as a part of the Local Policing Programme the force’s approach to preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe requires improvement.The force has cut back the investment it makes in neighbourhood policing: only 11 percent of its officers worked in neighbourhood policing compared with the England and Wales average of 18 percent. Taking neighbourhood staff away from their roles and assigning them to other duties is having a negative impact on the force’s preventative work, with less intelligence gathered and shared, resulting in less proactive activity to keep people safe. Currently the Local Policing Programme is restructuring how neighbourhood policing will operate and serve the public better from April 2017.
The force has strong working relationships with partner organisations, which often result in effective action being taken to address community concerns. It is good at engaging with the public, and does so in a variety of ways. However, the force has a limited understanding of how public feedback can be used to improve its services.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that local policing teams routinely 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 partners, to improve its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
Sussex Police’s initial investigative response to a crime is generally good.
Call handlers usually make the correct assessment and deploy the appropriate resource or allocate the incident to the appropriate department. All staff in the force who are involved in crime investigation have been trained in the force’s new investigations framework. However, there is poor supervision of investigations into less serious crime, and this seems unlikely to improve under the new ‘earned autonomy’ system. The overall quality of investigations is inconsistent, and the quality of the paperwork handed over after the initial investigation is often poor.
The force has improved its ability to retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices to ensure that investigations are not delayed. It has invested in technology that enables mobile phones to be examined by trained officers at local stations.
The force works with partner organisations to identify and manage offenders and prevent them from re-offending, but offenders on the integrated offender management scheme are predominantly perpetrators of theft, burglary and robbery. More could be done to target the perpetrators of violent crime and domestic abuse. Some visits to registered sex offenders are overdue.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that there is regular and active supervision of investigations to improve quality and progress.
- The force should ensure that those who are flagged 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.
- The force should ensure that the risks posed by registered sex offenders are managed effectively.
- The force should consider widening its approach to integrated offender management to maximise its impact on reducing threat, harm and risk. There should be clear measures of success which enable the force to evaluate how effectively it is protecting the public from prolific and harmful offenders.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
HMIC had several concerns regarding Sussex Police’s capacity to protect vulnerable victims. First, it has recently implemented a new system for handling domestic abuse incidents, which means that victims do not always receive a timely visit from an officer in person. A risk assessment is carried out over the phone in about 15 percent of domestic abuse cases, which means the risks are not being fully assessed and safeguarding action not taken quickly enough. However, all other risk assessments are generally completed promptly and to a good standard, and officers and staff understand the importance of taking appropriate safeguarding measures.
Another concern is that the arrest rate for domestic abuse incidents has seen a significant fall, as has the charge rate for those offences. The force needs to analyse the reasons for this and take appropriate action.
The force continues to have strong and effective relationships with partner agencies and this is reflected, for instance, in the work carried out in the local multi-agency risk assessment conferences.
Cause of concern
HMIC has concerns about the quality of investigation and decision-making in relation to some domestic abuse cases referred to the resolution centre. Sussex Police needs to improve its response to victims of domestic abuse by ensuring that all staff understand how to identify, assess, respond to and safeguard these victims at initial contact. Risk assessments are on occasion being completed over the telephone without an officer seeing the victim in person. This may result in the risk not being fully assessed and a victim of domestic abuse (and other family members) not being appropriately safeguarded.
To address this cause of concern HMIC recommends that the force should take immediate steps to ensure that:
- it improves its initial assessment and response to incidents involving all vulnerable people, but particularly victims of domestic abuse by ensuring that staff working in call handling understand and apply the THRIVE decision-making model, and are supervised effectively. The force response to incidents is determined upon this initial assessment of risk in order to ensure victims are kept safe;
- it reviews immediately the approach to assessing risks to victims of domestic abuse and ensures that all victims of abuse are visited and dealt with in a timely manner; and
- investigations, including those conducted within the resolution centre, are conducted to appropriate standards with effective supervision.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that officers and staff use the missing and absent categories appropriately in cases involving children.
- The force should improve its investigation of domestic abuse cases by ensuring that they are investigated by officers and staff with the appropriate professional skills and experience investigate cases, specifically complex cases, and are able to provide the ongoing safeguarding required and that these investigations are supervised effectively.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Sussex Police is good at tackling serious and organised crime. The force has a clear process for handling organised crime groups (OCGs). OCGs are included in existing processes for assigning tasks across the force and intelligence officers have a good understanding of how best to gather intelligence from police and law enforcement agencies. However, the force’s serious and organised crime local profile includes limited intelligence and information from partner organisations. This limits the force’s understanding of serious and organised crime in Sussex.
The force has targeted and disrupted OCGs in several successful operations across Sussex. The public can be confident that Sussex Police takes appropriate action against the people who cause most harm in their communities. However, we found limited evidence of the force deterring young people being drawn into organised crime.
The action plan for making best use of specialist regional capabilities is still a work in progress between the four forces involved. Agreeing the plan and putting actions in place should improve the existing collaborative arrangements.
The force uses the media effectively to get preventative messages to the public about serious and organised crime, reassuring the public following an operation where an OCG has been disrupted.
The force should develop its serious and organised crime local profile in conjunction with partner organisations to enhance its understanding of the threat and how to tackle it.
The force should take steps to identify those at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime, and ensure that preventative initiatives are put in place with partner organisations to deter those at risk of offending.
The force should improve its understanding of the impact of its activity on serious and organised crime across the 4Ps (pursue, prevent, protect, prepare), and ensure that it learns from experience to maximise the force’s disruptive effect on this activity.
Areas for improvement
- The force should develop its serious and organised crime local profile in conjunction with partner organisations to enhance its understanding of the threat and how to tackle it.
- The force should take steps to identify those at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime, and ensure that preventative initiatives are put in place with partner organisations to deter those at risk of offending.
- The force should improve its understanding of the impact of its activity on serious and organised crime across the 4Ps, and ensure that it learns from experience to maximise the force’s disruptive effect on this activity.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Sussex Police has good plans to mobilise in response to the threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement. It works well with other forces in the region when the need arises.
The force is well prepared to respond to a firearms attack. The force has recently reviewed its assessment of threat, risk and harm and this now explicitly includes the threats posed by marauding firearms terrorists. In light of this threat, Sussex Police plans to increase its firearms capacity and capability, both as part of a national programme to increase the capability and capacity of trained firearms officers but also through local initiatives. The force is progressing with its implementation of these plans.