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Cambridgeshire PEEL 2018


How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?

Last updated 21/01/2020

Cambridgeshire Constabulary is good at reducing crime and keeping people safe.

A new local policing structure aims to provide policing services to meet the complex and growing demand of communities. The force’s neighbourhood policing plan follows national standards. Proactive and specialist officers support local teams. These specialist officers are effective at investigating crime and protecting vulnerable people from exploitation. Victims receive support from an extensive victim and witness hub, which is positive practice.

The force has done a lot to improve its ability to investigate crime. But it doesn’t yet consistently supervise all crime investigations. It has made changes that should result in improvements. Its demand hub works well – it carries out several functions, including managing incident demand and investigating 40 percent of reported crime. The force has a good structure that helps it meet the demands of serious and complex crime investigation.

It is good at identifying and understanding vulnerability. It works well with partner organisations to do this. It is improving its ability to identify and respond quickly to victims of domestic abuse. But victims of other priority crimes such as burglary can still experience delays. The force is good at identifying and supporting people suffering a mental health crisis.

In 2017, we judged the force to be good at tackling serious and organised crime.

Questions for Effectiveness


How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?


Areas for improvement

  • The force should monitor the effectiveness of its newly launched neighbourhood policing strategy and consistently hold staff to account for delivering effective performance outcomes.
  • The force should evaluate and share problem-solving plans routinely to improve its approach to the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour.
  • he force should take steps to make information more accessible to staff to improve its use of orders and powers to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.

Prioritising crime prevention

Cambridgeshire Constabulary is good at prioritising crime prevention. It states it is now recruiting an additional 50 officers, which will increase neighbourhood policing to unprecedented levels. This followed an increase in the council tax precept and consultation with the community. Chief officers have focused the force strategy on shaping policing services to meet the needs of communities, with a focus on meeting current and future crime prevention demands. This includes keeping all enquiry offices open, but reducing their opening times to match the times of highest public demand.

The force has launched a neighbourhood policing strategy that has indicators to measure the performance of neighbourhood policing teams. The strategy is comprehensive and meets the standards set by the College of Policing. A neighbourhood policing steering group communicates the strategy to officers and staff to make sure that expectations and performance management are of a consistent standard. A detailed communication plan backs up the strategy and focuses on outcomes that add value rather than being merely a list of desired activity. We will watch with interest to see if performance improves further through using this strategy.

Neighbourhood policing teams are responsible for understanding and focusing on the places and individuals that cause and suffer greatest harm. These teams consist of police community support officers (PCSOs) and a dedicated neighbourhood constable led by a neighbourhood sergeant. To increase their problem-solving skills, new probationer constables are attached to neighbourhood policing teams in areas that suffer high levels of crime and harm.

Northern and southern community action teams (CATs) support this structure and carry out long-term problem solving. Serious street violence, exploitation of missing children and hate crime are examples of the types of problems they tackle. Proactive impact teams support each CAT. The primary role of these teams is the intrusive management of priority offenders in communities under the umbrella term integrated offender management. However, impact officers also provide more expert tactics, such as specialist entry and covert capabilities. This means that the force uses a range of resources within neighbourhoods to tackle problems that range from homelessness to serious street violence.

Seven community safety officers support victims of crime across the county. They provide support to vulnerable victims in liaison with the force’s victim and witness hub. This is good practice. The force has trained neighbourhood teams to a common standard and supervisors generally hold them to account in terms of crime investigation.

A proactive force communications team helps neighbourhood officers understand what matters to communities. Officers use social media messaging well and can now target messages at street level. We saw officers frequently updating the public on what action they had taken to deal with community priorities. The force has run a campaign warning older people about online scams. It backed this up with a social media campaign reminding young people to support elderly family members against fraud. The force evaluates the effect of all campaigns. It makes use of social media management software to monitor any useful comments on crime and policing it might be missing. It is working hard to raise the profile of some of the unseen work it does, such as carrying out patrols in response to community concerns, and uses social media to update the public on warrants carried out. It has used its social research officer to better understand how best to communicate its activities to inform and reassure communities. 

Protecting the public from crime

Cambridgeshire Constabulary has a strong understanding of the threats facing its communities. Officers make use of eCops, a social media platform that it says 3,500 members of the community have signed up to, to receive and comment on news and information. The force analyses threats and vulnerabilities in conjunction with partner organisations’ data to gain a good understanding of the scale and nature of problems. It has an active volunteer base and Special Constabulary, and access to a large Neighbourhood Watch group.

The force uses pop-up surgeries, as well as street surveys, parish meetings and local authority area committee meetings to listen to and record public concerns. Cambridgeshire City Council holds the area committee meetings four times a year to deal with a range of issues and discuss priorities with service leads and partner organisations, including the police. Senior officers hold monthly tasking meetings at which they pass priorities to relevant teams for action. Incidents of anti-social behaviour reported to the force decreased by 18 percent during the period April 2018 to March 2019.

Analysis and good information sharing arrangements help the force more routinely reveal hidden crimes such as modern slavery and human trafficking. The force identifies potential perpetrators and victims through shared intelligence and the Cambridge Harm Index, which is positive practice. It used this index to identify a group of offenders and is reducing their criminal activity and the harm this causes through use of targeted interventions. Operation Mantus is a good example of how the force has identified, engaged with and protected trafficked sex industry workers. It also carried out Operation Pheasant with housing associations and the UK Border Agency to identify and protect migrant workers. It states that it found that 75 percent of the workers it engaged with during the operation didn’t know how to contact the police before this contact. These exploited people are now less likely to maintain secrecy and are more confident in seeking help from the police.

The force’s rural crime action team liaises with gamekeepers and rural industries on concerns such as poaching and heritage site crime. In diverse urban areas such as Peterborough, neighbourhood teams work with religious leaders and use neutral venues to seek feedback on emerging tensions.

To inform its comprehensive serious street violence strategy, the force uses national best practice from the College of Policing. It is reassuring to note that in the year 2018/19, Cambridgeshire Constabulary reported only six violence with injury offences per 1,000 population – the lowest rate in England and Wales.

The force supports talented officers and staff as students on a University of Cambridge masters programme to develop new approaches to policing. One such officer has developed approaches to prevention using the Cambridge Harm Index, predicting locations where serious street violence is likely to take place. This research has been well received nationally and is helping the force to address a recognised gap in intelligence when it comes to such offences. 

Neighbourhood officers are aware of force priorities, such as street violence and prolific offenders. They make referrals to the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) when identifying children at risk. During our inspection, we saw a police protection order used to remove a missing child who was found in the company of older criminals and at risk of gang-related crime. The force uses police cadets and works with trading standards officers to carry out test purchase operations to identify illegal knife sales to children. It has also analysed how criminals are bringing weapons into the county.

The force reports that it has trained 550 neighbourhood officers and representatives of partner organisations in problem solving. These include housing and community cohesion officers. They use a model known as OSARA, which stands for outcomes, scanning, analysis, response and assessment. Supervisors assign weekly tasks to neighbourhood policing teams, and partner organisations attend monthly area committee meetings to discuss concerns and establish and agree priorities for action. However, officers and staff aren’t consistently using the common information and communication technology (ICT) platform E-CINS to manage and store problem-solving plans. The force also has no process for evaluating outcomes, which means it may be losing opportunities to learn from what works and share this among the workforce. To address this gap, since May 2019, its partnership and operational support department has started to dip-sample problem-solving plans for quality assurance. It intends to collect and share information on what works.

In September 2018, the force brought in an external training provider to train officers and staff on civil powers and criminal behaviour orders to help it reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. Police or local authorities can use a range of such legal powers to prevent and disrupt criminality.

The local authority is often the lead partner organisation in making applications for injunctions, but the force also makes good use of these powers. It makes frequent use of dispersal orders, which is likely to have contributed to the 18 percent reduction in anti-social behaviour in the past year. Use of criminal behaviour orders has reduced crimes of hare coursing by 36 percent, and the force is applying for the first national public space protection order for this offence. The community action team is applying for a gang injunction to tackle street-related violence. Since 2016, the force has been a national leader in using disruption notices under drugs legislation to disrupt organised criminals from setting up crack houses in the homes of vulnerable people. One such operation saw three offenders receive a combined custodial prison sentence of over 13 years.

However, many neighbourhood officers expressed a lack of practical knowledge about orders or didn’t know where to go for support in applying for them. This is despite the availability of guidance on the force briefing system. Senior leaders recognise that, nationally, the force makes less use of civil orders than many other forces. Of the 43 forces in England and Wales, it is ranked 12th-lowest for use of civil orders in the year 2018/19. In 2018/19, it used 77 anti-social behaviour orders per 1 million population. Within three months of our inspection, it plans to provide enhanced legal training on the use of powers and civil orders.

Summary for question 1

How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?


Areas for improvement

  • The force should ensure regular and active supervision of the quality and progress of investigations. This supervision should be properly recorded.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of performance in this area.

Investigation quality

In our 2017 effectiveness report, we said the force required improvement in its effectiveness at investigating crime and catching criminals. We are pleased to note it has made good progress in most areas. However, it hasn’t yet made enough progress to make sure that its investigations are routinely and effectively supervised. This area for improvement remains:

  • The force should ensure regular and active supervision of the quality and progress of investigations. This supervision should be properly recorded.

A change to the policing model in Cambridgeshire in 2017/18 has restructured and improved the way the force investigates crime. It has merged investigator teams to increase capacity, positioning them in two locations to deal with volume crime and domestic abuse incidents. It has set up several specialist units to investigate more complex crimes that often involve vulnerability and high-risk offenders. These units are well resourced and managed. A major crime unit (MCU) is available to the force through its collaboration with Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary. This collaboration is known as BCH. The MCU supports the force in cold-case reviews – that is, reviews of crimes that haven’t been finalised, but which the police are no longer actively investigating. It recently supplied a psychological analysis expert when the force investigated a series of stranger rapes. The eastern region specialist operations unit (ERSOU) provides further high-level capability.

The force reviewed its new policing model after six months. It has introduced a new governance process managed by senior leaders. This is particularly important in the protecting vulnerable people department, as it ensures greater accountability and oversight of high-harm offences. As part of the review, the force has increased capacity within its rape investigation unit and child abuse investigation and safeguarding unit (CAISU). This was an area we identified for improvement in 2017. It has also increased the supervision within local policing areas of those who investigate volume crime.

In January 2019, we examined 60 crime files and the results were inconsistent. Not all investigative lines of enquiry were identified and pursued in 11 of the cases, and we considered that supervision was ineffective in 25 cases. During our inspection in June 2019, we saw some evidence that a checklist of minimum standards in supervision was beginning to improve performance. We note that a planned increase of ten additional sergeants will add value to the supervision of volume crime. However, the force introduced supervisory checklists in 2017 and this alone didn’t lead to improvements. It needs to do more to satisfy itself that it is making
sustainable improvements.

As part of our crime file review, we also examined how well the force updates victims. It showed good victim care in 51 out of 60 cases we examined. Data supplied by the force in April 2019 indicated that officers weren’t updating victims appropriately in line with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime. The data suggested that only 34 percent of victims had received effective contact from investigators. The force reviewed this and reported that it found that staff were contacting the victim in 95 percent of the 173 cases it looked at. It identified that the difference in the findings was because officers were recording victim contact elsewhere in the investigation log. This supports our findings. The force is now working with suppliers to make sure that the recording of this vital information is made easier for staff and more accessible to supervisors for review.

The force has made significant changes to improve how it allocates and investigates cases of domestic abuse. It has closed the specialist unit that dealt with high-risk cases, and accredited detectives now investigate all domestic abuse offences within larger teams. This should ensure that domestic abuse crimes are allocated to investigators with the correct skills. A comprehensive domestic abuse strategy and action plan underpins the force approach. A domestic abuse scrutiny group oversees investigations and outcomes. Its members include Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyers, the judiciary, representatives from the charity Women’s Aid and independent domestic violence advocates. The views of victims are fed back both through these individuals and a commissioned survey. The scrutiny group reviewed 30 crime files that the force didn’t prosecute, largely because of a lack of support from the victim. They identified consistently good levels of service and remedial action having been taken. These include opportunities to use other evidence in a prosecution when the victim chooses to disengage. They provided positive feedback to officers and CPS colleagues. A detective sergeant encourages improvement by giving group and one-to-one training on domestic abuse investigation.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary has created a demand hub to carry out call handling, dispatch, incident resolution, desktop investigations and crime management functions at a single location. According to the force, the unit now investigates 40 percent of crime reported, without the need to deploy an officer. We examined cases and processes within the unit and found that the incidents it is dealing with are appropriate to its role and that type of resolution. Call handlers within the unit receive continuous training on a range of subjects including kidnap and coercive domestic abuse offences. Staff make good judgments when assessing vulnerability, identifying risk factors that call for prompt action.

In 2018, the force added an incident review team (IRT) to the demand hub. These experienced staff have reduced demand on frontline officers by monitoring incidents that are scheduled to receive a face-to-face appointment. The force reports that in 21.6 percent of cases examined by IRT during 2018, it was able to intervene and provide a quicker and more appropriate desk-based investigation. This early intervention means it can make available more appointments for victims who need to see an officer in person.

Officers maximise evidence-gathering opportunities at crime scenes. They routinely use body-worn video cameras and are equipped with technology including a mobile phone app that helps identify and manage cyber crime. Workloads are generally high but manageable and crimes are allocated appropriately. Officers told us that they receive a scheduled training day every five weeks on subjects that now align with force priorities. The force is planning regular training days for specialist investigators in departments such as the rape investigation team.

In the 12 months to April 2019, 14 percent of crimes reported to the force didn’t proceed because, although a suspect had been identified, the victim chose to withdraw their complaint. This is better than the 17 percent average for most other forces in England and Wales. However, senior officers are examining the reasons why victims disengage from a prosecution, so they can make improvements. 

Catching criminals

The Athena ICT system that Cambridgeshire Constabulary uses to record and manage crime automatically uploads the details of wanted people to the Police National Computer. This means the force quickly circulates this information nationally. At its daily management meetings, senior officers monitor and prioritise the arrests of all high-risk outstanding suspects. The force also engages proactively with partner organisations to manage foreign-national offenders through dedicated officers. It works with ACRO to check previous overseas convictions for foreign-national offenders who have been arrested. Automated ACRO checks mean the force obtains the conviction data for all those arrested, providing such data is correct. It raises workforce awareness about foreign-national offender checks through a dedicated portal on its website. Student officers also receive input on such offenders and their management during their initial training.

In April 2017, the Home Office amended legislation to change the way the police grant bail. This resulted in some forces releasing suspects under investigation in cases where bail with conditions may have afforded greater protection to victims. In January 2019, Cambridgeshire Constabulary reinforced its guidance to officers and staff. It mandated that, where officers haven’t sought a remand in custody for a suspected violent offender, or where the victim is vulnerable, they should primarily consider police bail with conditions. This guidance is now firmly established and the force considers victim safeguarding paramount. Risk assessments in force custody units routinely consider the risk detainees pose to victims, themselves and others. Local supervisors record and scrutinise these considerations, and regular operational performance group meetings, chaired by a senior officer, review overall trends.

Coinciding with the launch of the local policing review (LPR) model in May 2018, the BCH tri-force collaboration went live with the new Athena system. It is designed to have significant capabilities, including sharing digital case files with the CPS. However, the force reports that case file building on Athena is taking up to three times longer than previously and increasing workload pressures on officers. Difficulty uploading documents means the CPS rejects three quarters of cases on first submission. The force trained several super-users in Athena to support file quality and reports that, combined with the effect of Operation Sherlock training (that is, focused on continuous improvement in investigations), error rates in file quality have reduced from 46 to 22 percent. It anticipates further improvements through the launch of a case file standards and support unit. On 1 September 2019, this unit was fully resourced with 14 staff who quality assure files sent to the CPS and give training on errors. This team also triages files sent to the tri-force BCH criminal justice administration support unit.

Force analysts monitor how accurately crimes are classified against national crime recording standards. Resources in the investigations management unit (IMU) focus on improving the time it takes to quality assure and link reported crimes, to improve the speed of allocation to officers. This should reduce investigation times and mean victims receive a quicker service. However, this means that IMU staff are less able to deal with the backlog of some 1,400 completed investigations that are waiting to be formally recorded as closed. Until they are closed, these crimes clog up officers’ electronic caseloads, with notifications such as supervisory updates still being generated. This is inefficient. Since our inspection, the force has trained local supervisors to quality assure and file crimes submitted as closed. We will monitor the effectiveness of this change.

In our 2017 efficiency report, we said the force needed to develop clear measures of success to help it evaluate how effectively it is protecting the public from prolific and harmful offenders. We are satisfied that it has addressed this recommendation. It has developed a good performance framework that focuses on outcomes that prevent crime and reduce the risk to vulnerable people. It has a mature understanding of high-harm offenders through its high-harm index. Its performance and continuous improvement unit adds value to this.

We also recommended that the force should make sure that it provides direction on proportionate investigations to progress viable lines of enquiry. There is now good evidence of this in the demand hub, rape investigation team and local investigation units. The force also demonstrates a progressive understanding of other evidence-based alternatives to prosecution where, for example, opportunities to educate an adolescent suspected of low-level domestic abuse might be a better end result than criminalising a young person. The force is working with the police and crime commissioner (PCC) to broaden such perpetrator programmes. It intends to create a programme that includes a range of high-risk suspects rather than purely those who commit domestic abuse.

Understanding disclosure rules when preparing cases for court is important, as omissions can lead to the collapse of cases. Mandatory disclosure is well understood by the workforce and officers and staff described the training as impressive. Some 60 officers and staff have also received supplementary training as disclosure champions to further support colleagues. In the rape investigation team, we also saw good evidence that the force seeks early advice from the CPS on the viability of investigations and carries out proportionate lines of enquiry.

In the year 2018/19, the force filed 51 percent of crimes without identifying a suspect, compared with the 45 percent average in England and Wales. Force leads are working hard to develop their understanding of investigation outcomes to improve services for victims. This includes working with victim services to better understand reasons why victims disengage, as well as improving investigation standards and opportunities for early evidence gathering. In our crime file review in January 2019, we said that 49 of the 60 files had identified all viable lines of enquiry. We expect to see further improvements through the investigative standards training that the force has
in place.

The recent transformation of the force’s operating model, the increase in warranted officers and its efforts to improve standards of investigation should improve its ability to catch criminals and resolve investigations. It has made good improvements since our effectiveness inspection in 2017. We will continue to monitor its progress.

Summary for question 2

How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?


Areas for improvement

  • The force should make better use of neighbourhood policing officers to support the ongoing safeguarding of vulnerable victims and manage the risks that high-harm perpetrators pose within communities.
  • The force should ensure that it has sufficient resources available to respond appropriately to prompt (within one hour) calls for service, particularly for incidents of domestic abuse.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of performance in this area.

Understanding and identifying vulnerability

Cambridgeshire Constabulary identifies vulnerable people and demonstrates a good understanding of their needs. It has a clear vulnerability strategy and uses the College of Policing definition of vulnerability. It communicates this clearly to the workforce, who recognise and respond to vulnerability in its many forms.

The force provides extensive training to identify the criminal and sexual exploitation of young people, human trafficking and forced labour. This training takes place on dedicated training days for officers and staff. As part of the force’s domestic abuse action plan, it recently held a domestic abuse champions conference that was attended by 69 police officers and representatives from 25 partner organisations. Input included the perspective of survivors as well as updates from national experts and academics. During our inspection, officers spoke consistently of the need to assess the needs of victims and ‘do the right thing’. Student officers receive effective training to look beyond the obvious for causes of vulnerability and make swift referrals to partner organisations to help address these causes.

Within the force, there is a good understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability. This takes into account perspectives from partner organisations such as health and social care. Together they share and use information and data to develop a deeper understanding and support people in accessing services according to their needs.

Officers and staff take proactive steps to reveal hidden forms of child criminal and sexual exploitation. Through the LPR, the force set up a specialist missing, exploited and trafficked team (METHUB). This team works with neighbourhood officers, children’s services and partner organisations such as private care providers to reduce the risk of exploitation for victims, who are often young and extremely vulnerable. This includes victims at risk of so-called honour-based violence or female genital mutilation, as well as those who are missing, exploited or trafficked.

The force uses the Cambridge Harm Index to assess risk to victims as well as offenders. It then passes cases to the most appropriate agency and jointly monitors their progress. The force has recently developed a vulnerability assessment tracker: a method of recording and tracking activity to divert children from risky situations. This helps it assess the effectiveness of its interventions. Officers told us they map children who are at risk of being drawn into crime, and work with partner organisations and families to help divert them into education, mentoring or other activities.

Peterborough Safer Schools officers work to identify and divert children who are leaving education and on the verge of criminality. But there are a significant number of schools in the area and only a few of these officers.

Cambridgeshire has a high number of care homes that look after vulnerable young people at risk of being exploited or coerced into gang-related crime. In one example, officers worked hard to support a 15-year-old looked-after child into diversion activities and closer supervision. The boy didn’t recognise his own vulnerability, despite being stabbed in a gang-related incident. The force demonstrates a clear commitment to preventing young people from the risks of being drawn into a life of crime. 

The force has equipped officers and staff with additional training on stalking and harassment. These offences account for 39 percent of the overall increase in domestic abuse recorded in the 12 months to June 2019, according to force data. Officers show a good understanding of coercion and control offences, and this is echoed in feedback from the domestic abuse scrutiny group. The independent domestic violence advisor (IDVA) service contacts victims of domestic abuse quickly. There are several specialist IDVAs to support Eastern European victims, young people, and victims who have suffered stalking, harassment, coercion and control. The force listens to the views of victims in several ways: through the IDVAs, as well as a victim survey and court user groups. This improves how officers carry out investigations and safeguard victims from further harm.

Staff in the call centre immediately identify vulnerable people when they contact the force. Call handlers triage callers to identify people who are particularly vulnerable and then make sure that their calls receive a prioritised response. The force has invested in extensive training for call handlers, who consistently use the THRIVE model of risk assessment. One supported an 11-year-old child and their younger siblings through cardio-pulmonary resuscitation when they found their diabetic parent in an unresponsive state. This supports our view that call handlers show empathy and professionalism.

Call handlers can quickly give advice and guidance for mental-health-related incidents by consulting mental health professionals in the force control room. Information sharing for known service users helps officers understand the mental capacity of the caller and how they can support them in de-escalating the crisis. Staff routinely apply markers to force systems to highlight repeat victims, victims of domestic abuse and people with mental health conditions. This means if they call again, the system will highlight their vulnerability and help to make sure that the force provides the right response.

Responding to incidents

Cambridgeshire Constabulary routinely meets target times to respond to emergency incidents within 15 minutes. It should attend non-emergency incidents that still need a prompt response within one hour. In 2017, it was taking the force up to ten hours to respond to prompt-grade incidents of serious sexual offences. Under the new LPR model, it states that this has now reduced to an average attendance time of 104 minutes.

During the 12 months to March 2019, force data shows that its response to emergency calls of domestic abuse was 13 minutes, on average. However, some reports that required a prompt-grade response in the period up to April 2019 took officers over three hours to attend. These delays could cause victims to withdraw their support for a prosecution, and the force could be missing opportunities to gather evidence and protect victims. Nonetheless, it is taking positive action. It recently trialled a new supervisory structure that enables it to apply greater scrutiny to its deployment of officers to domestic abuse incidents. And it reports that it is now grading significantly more reports of domestic abuse as needing an immediate response. Although the average time to respond to an immediate-grade call has extended from 13 to 19 minutes, this means far more victims receive an appropriate response that protects them better. In all cases, if delays do occur, the force keeps victims informed and re-assesses their continuing risk.

Once at the scene, officers take positive action to protect victims. In 39.4 percent of all cases of domestic abuse, officers arrested the suspect. This compares with the national average of 28 percent. The force doesn’t use voluntary attendance to interview suspects where a power of arrest exists. Nationally, for the 12 months to April 2019, nine percent of domestic abuse suspects were interviewed voluntarily. Senior officers report that in June 2019, the force conditionally bailed significantly more domestic abuse suspects than it did the previous year. This shows that it is using police bail with conditions more extensively to protect victims.

The force has a growing understanding of factors that underpin its approach to dealing with domestic abuse. To develop this further, its scrutiny group is progressing an action plan to review the effectiveness of outcomes and identify improvements. Scrutiny also helps establish the reasons why victims withdraw their co-operation and the steps the force can take to prevent this. This is particularly important, because the force moved the investigation of high-risk domestic abuse cases from a specialist team into local investigation units. In the year April 2018 to March 2019, 14 percent of domestic abuse crimes reported to the force where a suspect had been identified didn’t proceed because the victim withdrew their support. This is better than the 18 percent in England and Wales.

IDVAs provide victims with support, safety planning and crisis interventions for those deemed to be at high risk of domestic abuse. The force recognises the importance of taking positive action early, to give victims the confidence to support a prosecution. In October 2018, it carried out an operation to deploy IDVAs with response officers to improve the co-operation of victims. It has evaluated the results, which were positive. Although it has no current plans to extend this approach further, it will consider it as part of its overall action plan to improve outcomes for victims of domestic abuse.

Officers and staff routinely complete effective risk assessments using an initial victim needs assessment and make immediate referrals into the MASH. Officers complete a domestic abuse checklist of actions as a minimum standard. They identify children linked to the household who may be affected by domestic abuse and alert their school, which further supports their safeguarding. The force routinely uses body-worn video footage and officers take the time they need to maximise evidence gathering and make people feel safe.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary has a comprehensive mental health strategy and works with a range of partner organisations, including health trusts and charities. Operation Farmington identifies frequent callers to the police who would be better served by other organisations. The force brings these callers to the attention of other organisations, such as community mental health teams, and requests vulnerability screening. For callers who don’t take up the support offered, a warning letter is issued to try to manage demand. This means that people who inappropriately contact the police in mental health crisis are diverted to more appropriate services, which reduces future demand on the police. 

All frontline officers have received mental health training and some have also received suicide intervention training. Mental health professionals are based in the force control room from 10am to 10pm and give advice to officers. Officers value the service and say this helps them make more informed decisions, particularly when responding to known service users. Out of hours, a social services crisis response is available. In September 2019, the mental health partnership plans to introduce a mentoring service to improve the resilience of people who frequently experience mental health crisis.

Supporting vulnerable victims

Cambridgeshire Constabulary is good at providing support to vulnerable victims. But it should make better use of neighbourhood policing officers to support the continuing safeguarding of vulnerable victims and manage the risks that high-harm perpetrators pose within communities.

A victim and witness hub looks after victims who need support and those who are going to court to give evidence. This is an extensive in-house service, jointly funded by the PCC and partner organisations that include the Mental Health Trust and the charity Victim Support. The hub has 20 victim and witness care co-ordinators who use an assessment process to make sure that appropriate support is provided to victims. Co-ordinators talk to victims about emotional and practical support, which includes an offer of a face-to-face visit by specially trained volunteers who work with the service.

Several specialist co-ordinators also work from the hub, including a community psychiatric nurse and a restorative-justice specialist. Other specialist co-ordinators help victims who may be young, exploited or trafficked, as well as those who have suffered domestic abuse. Another support worker helps victims access support services and looks after them when they go to court. We consider this service to be outstanding practice. It provides continuity to victims and helps them increase their personal resilience.

Hate crime has been a force priority since early 2019 and two PCSO hate crime champions lead in this area. They assess all incidents that affect victims with self-defined protected characteristics and identify these for early evidence, communications and safeguarding opportunities.

Victims of domestic abuse and household burglary, and other vulnerable people are also able to access a free crime-reduction service called the Cambridgeshire Bobby Scheme. The scheme gives crime prevention advice as well as practical support such as the installation of safety measures such as door locks and chains. Officers, staff and the Victim Support service can make direct referrals. The project has been running for over 18 years and has so far helped more than 46,000 victims. In January 2019, we inspected the force as part of a thematic inspection of crimes against older people. We were impressed that the Cambridgeshire Bobby Scheme was well known to the officers and staff we spoke to and is clearly having a positive effect on older victims of crime. 

We examined the extent to which the force uses the full range of powers available to deal with domestic abuse and protect victims. In the year 2018/19, it issued 22 domestic violence protection notices (DVPNs). The force has reviewed its use of DVPOs and DVPNs as per its 2017 areas for improvement, but despite this, the level of applications remains low. However, force leads have worked hard to make sure that officers consider every opportunity to improve their use of protection orders. Good use is made of police bail with conditions to protect victims. Officers also put victims in touch with the National Centre for Domestic Violence, which aims to support victims with a non-molestation order within 48 hours. Generally, these orders remain in place for longer than some protection powers applied for by the force. We will continue to monitor how the force makes progress in increasing its use of such powers.

We observed a clear risk-based rationale for use of police bail to better protect vulnerable victims. Officers investigating domestic abuse and child protection cases frequently use police bail with conditions. We reviewed a small number of live investigations and all were appropriate.

The force operates a MASH that is one of the few nationally that receives referrals for both children and adults. It is responsible for triaging and assessing all medium- and high-risk domestic abuse referrals. This information is then fed into a daily multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) process. There is good representation of partner organisations in the MARAC, including housing, social services, IDVAs and offender management officers from both the police and probation service. The MASH is also responsible for managing the Clare’s Law domestic violence disclosure scheme. In the six months between 1 October 2018 and 31 March 2019, the force made 32 ‘right to know’ and 21 ‘right to ask’ disclosures, which is a positive step towards safeguarding people from future harm.

The Elms, a sexual assault referral centre (SARC), offers a broad range of support and services to women and men who have been victims of sexual abuse or sexual violence. This includes access to specialist advisors, safeguarding, health screening and medical examinations. The force’s rape investigation team is also located in this healthcare setting. The Care Quality Commission recently inspected the SARC and is due to publish its report imminently.

The force effectively manages convicted and high-risk sexual and violent offenders who pose a threat to vulnerable people. In the six months from 1 October 2018 to 31 March 2019, it issued 43 sexual harm prevention orders and acted on 14 orders that were breached. Detectives in the management of sexual or violent offenders (MOSOVO) unit have high but manageable workloads. There are no backlogs of high-risk or very high-risk visits and the unit carries out more unannounced high-risk visits than are scheduled. It carries out all other visits in accordance with national guidelines. The department also makes good use of mobile technology during compliance visits to offenders. Officers check the technology that convicted offenders have access to for evidence of offences and use experts in the digital forensic unit when executing warrants.

Cases are effectively supervised and officers and staff well trained and experienced in their roles. Officers proactively escalate or de-escalate risk gradings based on visits, warrants and intelligence. For example, officers paid an extra visit to a low-risk person after receiving information that his partner was pregnant, which might have increased the risk of him re-offending. In another example, officers increased the risk grading for an elderly man who had been diagnosed with dementia, because of his sexual preoccupation and the effect dementia may have had on his ability to regulate his social behaviour.

The protecting vulnerable people department identifies offenders who seek and share indecent images of children online. Officers and staff in this department use technology to track those who seek indecent images. They check this at least fortnightly and prioritise investigations according to risk. However, this means that limited work takes place to research and investigate low-risk cases. Further checks could reveal perpetrators in a position of trust, which would increase the risk grading. The force should consider what additional measures it could put in place to make sure that it fully understands low-risk cases.

During April 2019, the force assessed 41 percent of registered sex offenders living in Cambridgeshire as low risk. Neighbourhood officers and staff can use force ICT systems to map the addresses of violent and sex offenders living in their policing area, but not all officers do. This means the force could be missing out on opportunities to monitor offenders more effectively. To prevent further offences, it should consider how it tasks its neighbourhood resources to act on reliable and current information.

Summary for question 3

How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?


This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2016 effectiveness inspection has been carried over.


How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?


Understanding the threat and responding to it

Cambridgeshire Constabulary works jointly with Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary to provide armed policing. This means the standards of training, armed deployments and command of armed operations are assured in all three forces.

The force has a good understanding of the potential harm facing communities in Cambridgeshire. Its APSTRA conforms to the requirements of both the code and College of Policing guidance. The APSTRA is published annually and is accompanied by a register of risks and other observations. The designated chief officer reviews the register frequently to maintain the right levels of armed capability and capacity.

Last year, we identified some areas where the force’s APSTRA could be improved. For example, it didn’t include details of how rapidly armed response vehicles (ARVs) respond to incidents. This is important in determining whether the force has enough armed officers to meet operational demands. The most recent APSTRA includes this detail.

All armed officers in England and Wales are trained to national standards. There are different standards for each role that armed officers perform. Most armed incidents in Cambridgeshire Constabulary are attended by officers trained to an ARV standard. However, incidents sometimes occur that need the skills and specialist capabilities of more highly trained officers.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary has adequate arrangements in place should specialist capabilities be needed. Tried-and-tested arrangements that are in place with Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary mean that specialist officers can be mobilised, should their skills be required. However, we believe there is scope to extend joint working beyond these three forces to include others in the region. This would strengthen operational resilience and bring greater assurance that officers with the right skills are on hand to manage the highest threats anywhere they might occur in the east of England.

Working with others

It is important that there are effective joint working arrangements between neighbouring forces. Armed criminals and terrorists have no respect for county boundaries. Armed officers must be prepared to deploy flexibly, in the knowledge that they can work seamlessly with officers in other forces. It is also important that any force can call on support from surrounding forces in times of heightened threat.

As Cambridgeshire Constabulary provides armed policing jointly with neighbouring forces, armed officers can deploy effectively into adjoining counties if they need to. This means that a greater armed response capacity is available to tackle armed criminals and protect the public.

We note that a programme of work is under way to bring a number of policing services into joint venture in forces in the east of England. The seven-force collaboration programme is designed to make policing services more efficient and economical. We welcome the fact that armed policing forms part of this programme. As well as our earlier comments about the greater sharing of specialist capabilities, we also recognise that the available firearms training facilities available to Bedfordshire Police, Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary are limited. We believe that improved training facilities and greater sharing of specialist capabilities should be prioritised within the programme.

We also examined how well prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in Cambridgeshire Constabulary are trained in tactics that take account of the types of recent terrorist attacks. The force has an important role to play in designing training exercises with other organisations that simulate these types of attack. These exercises are reviewed carefully so that learning points are identified and improvements made for the future.

As well as debriefing after training exercises, the force reviews the outcome of all firearms incidents that officers attend. This helps make sure that best practice or areas for improvement are identified. This knowledge is used to improve training and operational procedures.

Summary for question 5