Warwickshire PEEL 2016
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Warwickshire Police has been assessed as good in respect of how effective it is at keeping people safe and reducing crime. This is an improvement on last year’s assessment, when we judged the force to require improvement. In particular, the force has made good progress in how it identifies and responds to vulnerability, and there have also been improvements in how the force tackles serious and organised crime.
The force operates on a solid foundation of local policing from which safer neighbourhood teams work well with local communities. As part of their day to day activity, officers, and police and community support officers (PCSOs) take time to find out what matters to local people. However, there remain areas where local policing could be improved. If the force knew more about local demographics and population trends, it would be in a better position to prioritise resources and plan for the future. Although there is no doubt that the force is committed to tackling problems in local communities, it does not evaluate its problem-solving projects properly. These are highlighted in this report as areas for improvement.
The force is changing its operational practices for criminal investigations. It is allocating more investigations which involve vulnerable victims to specialist investigators to ensure that the victims receive an enhanced service. As a consequence, more crime is now being managed by neighbourhood and emergency response officers. Standards of investigation among these groups of officers are inconsistent and need to improve.
Following concerns we raised in 2015, the force has increased its ability to download evidence from smartphones, tablets and other devices. More investigations now rely on digital evidence. The force has done well to make the retrieval of this evidence part of its routine investigative practice.
The public can feel confident that Warwickshire Police protects vulnerable people and supports victims. Since HMIC last examined this area in 2015, the force has improved the service it provides to missing children in particular, although it now needs to understand how it can increase the support it gives to victims of domestic abuse.
HMIC also found improvements in how the force tackles serious and organised crime. It works with partners to limit the harm which is caused by members of organised crime groups, which reflects national good practice.
In addition, this inspection examined the force’s specialist capabilities and found that Warwickshire Police has good arrangements in place to respond to the national threats set out in the Strategic Policing Requirement. It is well prepared to respond to an attack which requires an armed response, and regularly tests its firearms capability.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
The manner in which Warwickshire Police prevents crime, tackles anti-social behaviour and keeps people safe requires improvement.
Community policing is the foundation of the force’s operating model. Safer neighbourhood teams generally communicate well with local people and listen to their concerns and priorities. However, the force must do more to understand the changing nature of its local communities. This would help support future planning, assist with resourcing decisions and lead to better communication with hard-to-reach communities.
Working alongside partner organisations, Warwickshire Police is committed to helping find solutions to problems in local communities. However, its problem-solving projects would benefit from better evaluation. This would help ensure the best use of resources and identify whether these tactics could be used to tackle similar problems elsewhere.
Areas for improvement
- The force should work with local people and partner organisations to improve its understanding of local communities, including those which are harder to reach, such as migrant communities or elderly people.
- The force should evaluate and share effective practice routinely, both internally and with partners, continually to improve its problem-solving approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour, including the ways that its neighbourhood policing teams use their enforcement powers effectively.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
The frequency with which offenders are identified when a crime has been committed in Warwickshire is similar to that of other forces in England and Wales. Additionally, the force makes more use of facilities to conclude cases without taking offenders before the court than many forces.
The force’s initial assessment of allegations of crime is good. Call handlers accurately assess the level of harm that callers might be exposed to and the service provided generally aligns well with each caller’s individual needs.
The standard of crime investigation varies. The investigation of crime involving vulnerable victims is now the responsibility of specialist investigators in CID teams. Their investigation reports are of a good standard, in contrast with the quality of some investigations which we examined elsewhere in the force. These cases were not always supported by plans to guide investigations, and supervision was erratic. New arrangements to allocate crime for investigation appear to have contributed to this situation, although there were signs during the course of the inspection that standards are improving. However, the force needs to seek assurances that during this period of change, services to victims are not compromised.
The force has responded well to comments made by HMIC in 2015 regarding the retrieval of digital evidence to support investigations. Delays in examinations of SIM cards had delayed the conclusion of enquiries and undermined the service provided to victims. Effective measures have been put in place to rectify this.
Offender management is one of the force’s strengths, and HMIC found evidence of the force’s belief that it should be ‘everyone’s business’. There are clear signs that it is becoming part of the force’s operational activities. In particular, safer neighbourhood teams are having an increasing impact on curbing re-offending.
Areas for improvement
- The force should put measures in place to ensure that all investigations are of a good standard and are subject to regular, effective supervision.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
The force has a good understanding of the scale and nature of vulnerability in the communities it serves. It has analysed extensively areas of strategic risk and its profiles of these areas, for example child sexual exploitation and human trafficking, are both informative and influence its operational policing.
The principles of THRIVE (threat, harm, risk, investigation opportunities, vulnerability and engagement level) are now well accepted and understood. Call handlers are well trained, committed to their work and can accurately identify vulnerability at the first point of contact. This provides a strong reference point for later enquiries and aims to ensure that victims are placed at the centre of investigations.
Officers respond well to victims who need urgent help and understand their responsibilities. They make use of criminal law and put immediate measures in place to protect vulnerable people. For example, domestic violence protection notices are used to prevent abusive partners from contacting victims or returning to their homes. However, we also found examples of other incidents being downgraded without the rationale for this being recorded. This tended to occur when there were insufficient officers available to respond effectively.
The force’s new investigative model provides greater certainty that highly trained investigators will manage enquiries relating to vulnerable victims. Furthermore, the force’s harm assessment unit provides referrals to third party service providers for further support.
This inspection included a specific concentration on observations concerning domestic abuse that HMIC made in its report PEEL: Police effectiveness 2015 (vulnerability). A chief officer has responded to all of these recommendations, particularly in relation to enhanced training, which has resulted in an improved risk-assessment process that is more closely supervised. HMIC saw several examples where this renewed approach has resulted in better services for victims.
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve the way it works to share information and safeguard vulnerable people so that they receive the services they need at the right time; specifically by ensuring that the capability and capacity of the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) enables it to process referrals promptly and effectively.
- The force should take immediate steps to understand the reasons why such a high proportion of crimes (including those related to domestic abuse) fall into the outcome category ‘Evidential difficulties; victim does not support police action’, and rectify this to ensure that it is pursuing justice on behalf of victims. Warwickshire Police is one of several forces that have been asked to review its use of this outcome category. It is recommended that by 1 May 2017 the force should produce and submit to HMIC an action plan that sets out how it will:
- undertake a comprehensive analysis of the use of this outcome across the force area to fully understand why the force is an outlier and produce an accompanying report for scrutiny by HMIC by 1 June 2017;
- review the extent to which the force’s use of this outcome category is appropriate; and
- take steps to reduce the force’s reliance on this outcome category and improve outcomes for victims.
This action plan and subsequent report will be reviewed by HMIC and may prompt additional inspection revisits during 2017 in order to assess the force’s progress in adopting a more effective response in pursuing justice on behalf of victims.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Serious and organised crime is another area where the force has responded positively to comments made in HMIC’s 2015 effectiveness inspection. Local profiles of organised crime groups have now been completed and operational activity to limit the harm they cause is both effective and conforms to national best practice guidelines.
HMIC found good examples of local partnerships supporting activity against organised crime, notably the serious and organised crime joint action group (SOCJAG) in Warwickshire. HMIC also noted that there are good processes in place to assign local resources to serious and organised crime, within the alliance and the wider West Midlands region.
The force still has more to do to assess the effects of its efforts to disrupt organised crime group activity and to discourage young people who may be tempted into criminal lifestyles. The SOCJAG is active in this area and we noted how the force is making interventions through the troubled families’ programme. However, at present this is not strategically managed by the chief officer team. In particular, safer neighbourhood teams could be more proactively involved in disrupting organised crime group activity.
Police operations to confront organised crime groups are promoted in the force’s publicity campaigns. When an investigation ends, the force considers each case to decide whether the police activity is likely to be newsworthy, and which important messages should be made public.
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Warwickshire Police has a good understanding of how the national threats outlined in the Strategic Policing Requirement relate to the force area. They are central to the force’s strategic assessment of all priorities, which ensures that the force’s capabilities and capacity to address the threats are kept under constant review.
One of the national threats relates specifically to counter-terrorism. The force has studied carefully the type of attacks that took place in Paris in November 2015 and considered their implications for the command, deployment and training of armed officers. Firearms training in Warwickshire Police conforms to national standards, and police weaponry and tactics have been enhanced as a consequence of the nature of modern day terrorist attacks. The force has also deepened its collaboration agreements with its alliance partner and surrounding forces in preparation for an increase in the numbers of armed officers being urgently required.
The force has an established exercise training regime, and simulated terrorist attacks are used frequently to test the force’s ability to withstand this type of threat.