Gloucestershire PEEL 2018
How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?
Gloucestershire Constabulary is good at reducing crime and keeping people safe.
The force focuses on preventing crime, rather than just reacting to it. Police officers and police and community support officers (PCSOs) talk with the public to find out what they are worried about. They provide a good service to victims of crime.
The force is good at investigating crime and catching criminals. It needs to make sure that investigations by local teams receive regular supervision.
It protects vulnerable adults and children well. But there are some delays in referring vulnerable children to other agencies, such as social services. Delays in processing ‘Clare’s Law’ applications are unacceptable.
The force is good at managing registered sex offenders and violent offenders. It works well with the prison service to monitor offenders who have been released from prison.
Gloucestershire Constabulary needs to improve its understanding of the threat from serious and organised crime by collecting more information from other agencies.
The force continues to identify new organised crime groups. It has a good understanding of modern slavery and child sexual exploitation.
The force is working to identify vulnerable young people who might be tempted into serious crime. It aims to help them to avoid getting involved in crime.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
Prioritising crime prevention
Prevention is at the centre of Gloucestershire Constabulary’s approach to reducing crime and keeping people safe. Force leaders have a clear concept of local policing which is well understood by the workforce. The force gives officers and staff the resources and support necessary to prevent crime. The neighbourhood policing model was introduced in January 2018 and provides the public with effective crime prevention services. Dedicated neighbourhood policing teams are made up of police officers and PCSOs. The force assigns them to communities, where they concentrate on local problems. Neighbourhood teams are proactive in their communities and focus on preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, rather than waiting for it to occur then reacting. The force has set up a dedicated community harm reduction team (CHRT) which concentrates solely on prevention and early intervention. The CHRT is responsible for developing the force’s approach to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour in local communities.
The force gives officers and staff enough time, support and training to work effectively with communities. Training includes problem-solving methods, sessions which share the knowledge of what works, discussion forums and one-to-one meetings with supervisors which reinforce learning for officers and PCSOs.
Fortnightly neighbourhood tasking and co-ordination meetings direct the work of cadets, special constables and other volunteers to ensure that they use their time effectively to solve local problems.
Protecting the public from crime
The force has a good understanding of its communities. It assesses threats effectively using information which comes from talking and listening to people in the community. This approach enables the force to understand where harm is most likely to occur. Neighbourhood policing teams (NPTs) engage with their communities at a variety of community meetings and events, as well as through social media. The force uses an app called ‘Neighbourhood Alert’ to communicate directly with the public by text, email or voicemail. The force uses this to give crime prevention advice to people who might not otherwise engage with the police. Using local problem profiles, the force completes MoRiLE processes to identify risks and harm. Dedicated PCSOs work with those communities which traditionally have less involvement with the police and identify emerging concerns. They have developed particularly strong relationships with rural, faith, transient, sex worker and eastern European communities.
The force has effective information-sharing arrangements with partner agencies at both county and local levels. Since our last inspection in 2017, the force has made considerable progress in agreeing a problem-solving and community-building approach with partner agencies. The force works closely with different agencies and communities to tackle problems. This collective approach tries to identify and deal with the underlying causes of crime and anti-social behaviour, rather than just reacting to the symptoms. The force has made a comprehensive evaluation of this approach in partnership with Gloucester City Council, the Barnwood Trust and the office of the police and crime commissioner (OPCC). The results show positive effects on community safety and wellbeing, and increased trust and confidence in the police.
The force has developed a tool for its local policing teams which gives up-to-date information about crime hot spots, trends and vulnerable people who live in the community. This approach has improved the use of information and intelligence.
The force also works closely with a range of local community groups who receive money from the PCC’s fund. This fund comprises 1 percent of the PCC’s budget and gives financial help to charities and organisations which support vulnerable and disadvantaged people.
The force has continued to introduce the OSARA problem-solving model for use by all officers and staff. This model uses different steps based on outcomes, scanning, analysis, response and assessment. Most of the time, PCSOs and NPT officers lead the work. They have been trained to solve problems and the force gives them adequate time to work effectively with communities. We found good examples of problem solving and preventative tactics being used as part of the daily work of local officers. During our inspection, we reviewed several examples of long-term problem solving. The quality of the information recorded within the plans varied. Some plans were detailed, with good supervisory oversight and evidence of evaluation. Others lacked detail and did not adequately reflect the extent of continuing work to tackle problems. This means there is a risk that the force is not co-ordinating or evaluating work to address neighbourhood problems as effectively as it should. This contrasts with the use of analysis and evidence to inform problem-solving work at a force level, where we found that several projects had been thoroughly evaluated. These include the use of a mental health car to provide a specialist response to incidents involving vulnerable people, vehicle crime reduction projects and community engagement work with partner agencies. The force has increased the capacity of its analysis and research team so that it can give extra support. The team handles more than 200 requests from within the organisation each month for research work and analytical support.
Alongside its problem-solving work, the force makes use of the powers and tactics which are available to help it to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. During our inspection we noted evidence of the force using community protection notices, criminal behaviour orders, civil injunctions and dispersal notices.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 the force’s performance in this area.
Most investigations conducted by Gloucestershire Constabulary are of a satisfactory quality. We reviewed a sample of 60 files and found that most of the investigations (55 out of 60) were conducted effectively, particularly in the more serious crime categories.
The force has restructured its investigation teams to create sufficient capacity and capability to cope with investigative demand. In 2017, we reported that the force was allocating some cases to officers within the local investigation teams who did not have the right skills or experience to investigate certain types of crime. Earlier this year, the force created local investigation teams to deal with low-harm crime in each of the six command areas. Each local investigation team has a trained detective sergeant and detective constable who work with uniformed colleagues. In addition to the detective sergeant, each team is led by a detective inspector. The force retains a central criminal investigation team (CID) to investigate more serious and complex crimes. CID officers have been trained to the professional investigations programme (PIP) levels 2 and 3.
The force gives clear direction to staff on how they should allocate crimes, according to harm and crime type, and the level of investigative skill required. There are now sufficient numbers of skilled and experienced officers and staff to conduct investigations and investigators’ caseloads are manageable. The force has introduced an initial investigation team to conduct telephone investigations. The force reviews and risk assesses all telephone cases to ensure that they are investigated appropriately. We reviewed cases investigated by this method and found that officers and staff handled them appropriately, passing them to local investigation teams when further enquiries were needed.
In most of the cases we looked at, officers attending crime scenes made the most of opportunities to gather evidence in the ‘golden hour’. This is the hour immediately after a crime has been committed. If officers can gather evidence during this hour, they are much more likely to be able to gather significant evidence which may not be available when more time has elapsed.
We saw examples of comprehensive handovers to investigators which outlined the results of initial enquiries such as CCTV location, house-to-house calls and actions to find suspects. The force uses investigation plans and these range in complexity according to the type of crime which officers are investigating. Although most of the investigation plans included a summary of the case and a list of proposed work to be done, some lacked clear aims and objectives.
Since our last effectiveness inspection in 2017, the force has improved its supervisory oversight. In most of the cases that we reviewed during our inspection we found evidence of supervisory involvement. However, the quality of recording was inconsistent. In specialist units and the CID, recorded supervision was more intrusive and informative, and supervisors actively made direct enquiries. In the local investigation teams, the recording of supervision was generally less detailed. Although the force has made improvements, it needs to do more to ensure that the standard of supervision is consistent across all teams because this has a direct bearing on the quality of each investigation.
The force provides victims of crime with a good service. We found that officers contact victims regularly and record this on crime files. However, investigators did not record the frequency and nature of the contact which they had agreed with victims. This means the force cannot analyse and evaluate whether the type and frequency of contact it provides meets victims’ needs. The force has recently developed a plan to improve the quality of the service it provides to victims. This includes the introduction of victim contact agreements and other measures to improve the force’s understanding of victims’ experiences. Many of the force’s investigators have been trained to conduct ‘Achieving Best Evidence’ interviews. This means it is more likely that appropriately trained staff will interview victims and witnesses. The force encourages its investigators to pursue prosecution in cases where the victim does not support action. The number of occasions where the force finalises such cases without a prosecution is in line with the rate for England and Wales. In our 2017 effectiveness report, we said that the force should take steps to understand the reasons why victims do not support police action in a high proportion of crimes it investigates. This year we found that the force has improved its understanding. Analytical work has been carried out to understand the reasons behind victim disengagement and the force crime registrar and the force crime management unit dip-sample crimes to ensure that outcomes are being recorded accurately.
The force is good at catching criminals and resolving investigations. It has an effective process to manage people who fail to appear on police bail, people who are named as having committed a crime and suspects identified through forensic evidence. We found that the force manages enquiries to trace wanted suspects and offenders on the Police National Computer (PNC) effectively and officers prioritise their location and detention. Investigators have a good understanding of the need to make appropriate enquiries to try and trace offenders before circulating them on the PNC and they are competent in the process they use to circulate the details of wanted suspects and offenders. The force has a wanted and suspected persons (WASP) manager who maintains an overview of cases and gets regular updates from investigators to ensure that officers take appropriate action to trace offenders. Crime files remain open on the force crime-recording system while these enquiries continue, which enables the WASP manager and local line managers to hold investigating officers to account. These processes are effective and the force arrests offenders in a timely way. Officers regularly consult Immigration Enforcement to manage arrested foreign nationals and they work effectively with ACRO and Immigration Enforcement to obtain relevant information about overseas convictions. Protocols are in place with Immigration Enforcement to carry out checks and to review options for the removal or deportation of people who have committed serious crimes or who pose a threat to communities.
The force makes effective use of bail legislation and investigators use it to manage offenders robustly by imposing bail conditions in appropriate cases to keep the public safe; for example, to protect victims of domestic abuse. The force has a dedicated bail manager, who supports investigation units by giving advice and guidance. The bail manager uses bail management software. This collects data from crime files, custody records and voluntary attendance suites to give direction and to promote good practice on the effective management of bail cases from initial bail to 28-day extensions and three-month court bail extensions. The bail manager has also collected examples of court applications that have received favourable feedback from local magistrates. The bail manager uses these to ensure that similar applications are of a consistent quality. Where suspects are released under investigation (RUI) from custody without bail, the custody officer risk-assesses each case. In each investigative team, RUI champions maintain an overview of bail management for their local teams. We determined that this has led to improvements in the management of RUI cases. The force is also designing a bail/RUI dashboard for officers and staff to complement these processes.
The force reviews investigations effectively and scrutinises outcome data to improve services to the public. For example, the force conducted a serious case review which led to improvements in officer training, in the quality of safeguarding referrals and in investigation standards.
We found that officers with responsibility for investigations have a good understanding of their disclosure obligations. Some of those we spoke to have had formal training. Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyers have also given guidance to investigators. This ensures that investigators apply disclosure rules effectively when they compile criminal case files. The force has an effective process to ensure that investigators complete disclosure schedules to a good standard. Supervisors and the force’s criminal justice department check the quality of the files before the force submits them to the CPS.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 ensure that the capability and capacity of the MASH enables it to process referrals promptly and effectively; it should ensure this approach is sustainable for the long-term.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
Understanding and identifying vulnerability
The force has a clear definition of vulnerability and an effective strategy for protecting vulnerable people. The force communicates its strategy and definition well and the workforce demonstrates a good understanding of the nature and scale of vulnerability. The force works closely with local authorities and other partner agencies to interpret data which helps it to understand where harm is concentrated and what types of exploitation exist in local communities.
The force has provided licensed College of Policing vulnerability training to all frontline and public-facing staff and supervisors, including police officers, PCSOs, detectives, call-handlers and reception staff. It has also invested in training and continued professional development (CPD) for officers in its public protection team. The force holds a CPD training event every six months. The public protection team also works with the local authority to run a four-day multi-agency vulnerability training course.
The force has arranged a joint workshop with 2gether NHS foundation trust. This was based on the College of Policing’s guidelines on vulnerability, ‘Looking Beyond the Obvious’. The workshop was designed to improve the knowledge which frontline officers, local investigation teams and staff from the force control room have about vulnerability. It explained the theory behind what makes people vulnerable and taught delegates about the agencies which can offer appropriate support to victims.
In our 2017 effectiveness inspection we found limited evidence of the use of analysis to understand any patterns in offending against vulnerable people. The force has since developed a ‘dashboard’ for officers and staff which gives up-to-date information on types of crime, repeat victims and vulnerable people within communities. It enables the force to identify patterns of offending and to implement safeguarding measures to protect people who are at risk of harm. The force has also introduced a monthly survey of victims of domestic abuse. It obtains feedback from 15 victims, including those who choose not to pursue a prosecution. This has helped the force to learn from the experience of victims and to improve the services it offers.
We found that the force encourages officers and staff to use their professional curiosity to investigate and uncover vulnerability and hidden harm; for example, the trafficking of vulnerable people who are forced to work without being paid or made to work against their will. Officers and staff work well with partner organisations to take proactive steps to uncover ‘hidden’ harm. We found that the force has increased the number of staff in the child sexual exploitation team and has also introduced a multi-agency missing and child exploitation meeting to exchange information about victims and offenders. This helps to safeguard vulnerable people who might be at risk of exploitation.
Gloucestershire Constabulary is good at identifying vulnerable people at the point when they first contact the police. This includes the identification of repeat victims, victims of domestic abuse and people who have mental health conditions. Call handlers respond to calls quickly and follow a structured risk-assessment process to ensure that they respond to incidents in a consistent way. All call handlers have been trained in the national risk-assessment tool known as THRIVE. In the sample of calls we listened to, we found that operators applied this method well. The force’s IT systems allow it to identify cases involving vulnerable people easily using markers, but the system does not identify repeat victims, including victims of domestic abuse, automatically. Instead, call handlers must search systems manually. We found that call handlers have a good understanding of the needs of vulnerable people who have mental health problems. The mental health crisis team can offer support and advice to make sure that callers receive the appropriate service. Officers and staff in the control room apply their training and show a good understanding of the importance of acting at once if necessary to protect people experiencing mental health problems.
We spoke to officers who respond to incidents. They said that they get regular updates from control room staff while on their way and these help them to be aware of the vulnerabilities and risks that might be present when they arrive at an incident.
When they attend incidents, officers and staff use a structured process to assess the risks presented to victims and to other vulnerable people in the household. Officers complete a domestic abuse risk-assessment process called the VIST (vulnerability identification screening tool) to ensure that they use opportunities to take early safeguarding action. This includes recording details of children who live in the household, irrespective whether or not they were present when the incident took place. Officers and staff clearly understand their responsibility to identify children and make referrals about them to other agencies for assessment and support. Staff at the MASH review risk assessments every day to check that an assessment of risk is appropriate. However, we found that delays sometimes occur when the force sends VIST risk assessments to the MASH for review. The force is aware of this problem and is taking steps to resolve it. There is a risk that some victims do not get the protection they need within the necessary timeframe. This is worrying, and we will continue to monitor progress until the problems are resolved.
The force’s domestic abuse and safeguarding team makes appropriate use of legal powers to protect victims of domestic abuse when victims need enhanced safeguarding, or when victims need additional measures such as domestic violence protection notices (DVPNs) and domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs). In the 12 months to 31 March 2018, the force applied for 19 DVPOs. The courts approved all of these, and offenders breached seven of the DVPOs. In the same period, the courts approved 20 applications for DVPNs, none of which were breached.
Responding to incidents
The force responds to incidents involving vulnerable people promptly to keep them safe. During our visit to the force control room calls were answered efficiently. Call handlers apply their training and use THRIVE well. They now spend more time accurately identifying the needs of each caller to make sure that they assess risks fully. To ensure that the control room maintains call-handling performance at times when there are a lot of incoming calls, multi-skilled staff move flexibly between different roles. We found that officers attend incidents appropriately and that they reassess risks when they receive more information. Call handlers offer interim safeguarding advice to callers over the phone to reduce the risk of further harm. The force monitors deployment targets daily and produces a performance report which includes updates on incidents and examples of good work.
Officers are good at identifying risks to victims and consistently identify risks to other vulnerable people in households, such as children. Officers complete VIST risk assessments and forward them to the MASH, which reviews them. Response officers attend bi-monthly development days where they receive updates on important operational themes relating to vulnerability. These updates include domestic abuse, mental health, stalking and harassment. These events give officers an opportunity to share learning and identify how they can improve the quality of service which the force provides to vulnerable people.
Gloucestershire Constabulary has one MASH for the county. The force works with a range of partner agencies, including education, probation, health and children’s services to ensure that safeguarding arrangements are in place for vulnerable people. However, we were concerned to find delays in the processing of VIST referrals made to the MASH. Every day, the force reviews all domestic abuse incidents to assess risks and to put urgent safeguarding actions in place. However, officers and staff might not have the most up-to-date information on either risk or victim needs.
The force is aware of the problems and is taking steps to resolve them. Solutions include the relocation of the MASH premises, which are shared with the local authority, and changes to existing structures and processes. The commissioning of a new IT solution should enable officers and staff to put VIST forms directly onto the force’s records management system.
The force has a mental health triage process. Officers, staff and other agencies told us that this helps everyone. The force has introduced a mental health triage car in partnership with the 2gether NHS foundation trust. This is a response car which is staffed by a mental health nurse and a police officer. The officer and the nurse can give advice to staff in the contact centre; they also attend incidents where mental ill-health might be a contributing factor. The mental health triage car is only available between Tuesday and Thursday each week, from midday to 10.00pm. Outside these hours, officers must contact practitioners who can then give advice about mental health. Frontline officers and staff have a good knowledge of mental health conditions and joint training with mental health partners takes place regularly. Evaluation of the triage facility shows that officers have an improved awareness of what they can do to help people experiencing mental health problems. The force reports that over the last 12 months there has been a 20 percent reduction in the number of people officers have detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act. Improvements in the force’s methods of identifying people who dial 999 repeatedly has meant that the force and the health services can intervene earlier at times of crisis.
The force is effective at protecting victims of domestic abuse and it prioritises attendance at these incidents. In the 12 months to 31 March 2018, officers attended 80 percent of domestic abuse incidents as an emergency or priority call. Our inspection found that the force does not generally deal with domestic abuse victims over the telephone.
Gloucestershire Constabulary made 42 arrests for domestic abuse per 100 domestic abuse-related offences in the 12 months to 31 March 2018. It could not provide specific data about the use of voluntary attendance in domestic abuse investigations.
The force has effective, well-developed relationships with external partner organisations such as the 2gether NHS foundation trust and local authorities. These enable it to support vulnerable people and address the needs of victims. The force has established processes which enable it to analyse data and exchange information about vulnerable people with other safeguarding agencies. This exchange of information takes place at different contact points including the MASH, in mental health triage, and through the vulnerability single points of contact based in local policing teams.
Supporting vulnerable victims
Neighbourhood teams are involved in the continuing safeguarding of vulnerable victims, including children who are at risk of sexual exploitation, people with mental health conditions and repeat victims of domestic abuse. The force has introduced single points of contact in each local policing area to support victim care, interventions and crime prevention for vulnerable people.
Force data indicated that the numbers of ‘right to know’ and ‘right to ask’ (Clare’s Law) applications are increasing. In the 12 months to 31 March 2018 there were 105 applications to the ‘right to know’ scheme and the force made 26 disclosures. There were also 56 applications to the ‘right to ask’ scheme and the force made 19 disclosures. All domestic violence disclosure scheme applications are received in the MASH. The MASH team carries out initial research and sends the information to the domestic abuse safeguarding team to review the risk. We have previously referred to problems in the MASH. These problems include a backlog of Clare’s Law applications. The MASH team has not met the target time for completing 25 of these. The MASH team should respond to a request for information within 35 days (five weeks). We found an application that was six weeks old. These delays are unacceptable and could increase the risks which offenders pose to potential victims and their families. The force must address this problem as a matter of urgency.
Multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) processes in Gloucestershire are effective. The force and other agencies work together to produce plans which will support victims; every victim has a plan which takes their specific needs into account. The force assesses all domestic abuse incidents and exchanges information with relevant agencies. If the force has completed all appropriate safeguarding work, then the case will not be discussed at a MARAC. Instead, the force updates every agency with details of the safety plans and the actions which have been agreed. If any agency disagrees and feels that a case should be discussed at a MARAC, they can challenge the decision. This means that the force protects victims without the delays that can sometimes occur in waiting for the next MARAC to take place.
The force regularly seeks and uses feedback from vulnerable victims and other users so that it can improve its services. In our 2017 effectiveness report we said that the force should improve its processes for obtaining feedback from the victims of domestic abuse, including those who do not support police action. The force now conducts surveys of domestic abuse victims, whether or not the victim supports a prosecution. This involves a survey of 15 domestic abuse victims each month. The continuous improvement team administers this survey and sends feedback directly to the supervisors of the officers involved in each case. The force encourages supervisors to make use of this feedback in one-to-one meetings to ensure that officers strive to improve the service they provide.
The force manages the risk posed by registered sex offenders (RSOs) effectively. In our 2017 effectiveness report we said this was an area for improvement, and the force has responded positively. The number of resources allocated to the management of sexual and violent offenders has been increased and this has improved the capacity of the unit. The additional resources have reduced the backlog of visits pending for high and medium-risk registered sex offenders. At the time of the inspection there was a backlog of 43 visits to medium and low-risk registered sex offenders. The force makes risk assessments on these offenders using the nationally recognised ARMS model and involves external agencies in the process. We noted that the application of national guidance has improved the accuracy of risk assessments, enabling the force to manage low-risk offenders in a more proportionate way and allowing it to pay greater attention to high-risk offenders. The force is proactive in its approach to identifying those who share indecent images of children online. The indecent images unit is adequately resourced. Several organisations, including the National Crime Agency (NCA), make referrals to the force. The force uses specialist software which allows it to identify potential offenders; data supplied by the force shows it has achieved a high conviction rate (99 percent) from cases where an offender has been charged.
The force routinely uses preventative and additional or ancillary orders to protect the public from dangerous and sexual offenders. The force reports 48 sexual harm prevention orders were issued in the year to 31 March 2018, four of which were breached. The force responds effectively when such breaches occur. During our visits to local stations we saw evidence that neighbourhood policing teams are fully aware of the RSOs living in their local areas and are actively working to supervise them to reduce the risk to the public.Summary for question 3
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
Areas for improvement
- The force should further develop its serious and organised crime local profile to enhance its understanding of the threat posed by this criminality and to inform activity with partner organisations to reduce the threat.
- The force should ensure that lead responsible officers maintain up-to-date management plans for all active organised crime groups as part of a long-term, multi-agency approach to dismantling these groups, taking a balanced approach across the ‘4P’ framework with should have a consistently good knowledge of available tactics.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
Although Gloucestershire Constabulary has continued to make progress, its understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime requires improvement. In our 2017 effectiveness report, we stated that the force should develop its serious and organised crime local profile in conjunction with partner organisations. However, its local profile still doesn’t include sufficient partnership data to enable it to fully understand the threat which serious organised crime poses in the county. The force is working with its partners to tackle this and has organised joint events to increase the understanding of the harmful effects that organised crime has on local communities.
The force uses structured methods to assess threats and to prioritise resources and work, including MoRiLE and thematic profiles. It has identified five thematic areas as a priority:
- child sexual exploitation;
- ‘sextortion’ (using sexual images as a means of coercion);
- county lines;
- domestic abuse; and
- human trafficking.
These thematic areas acknowledge local, regional and national concerns. The force continues to identify new organised crime groups (OCGs). Neighbourhood officers are encouraged to identify crime groups operating in their local areas and to submit intelligence reports about them. Emerging threats include organised child sexual exploitation, modern slavery and cyber-crime. The force reviews these themes at a monthly threat assessment meeting. Specialist analysts and researchers attend these meetings and collate intelligence and information to inform the risk-assessment process.
The force has restructured its neighbourhood teams and local inspectors now act as lead responsible officers (LROs) for the OCGs in their areas. The force prioritises vulnerability when identifying threats and risks to the public. This is reflected in the current operational priorities, which acknowledge the clear link between the criminal exploitation of vulnerable people, serious organised crime and public protection. The force takes proactive steps to identify organised criminal activity and to spot the developing signs of serious organised crime at the earliest opportunity. It expects that the demand from cyber-related and cyber-dependent crime will continue to increase so it is investing in workforce training and new technology now to be able to respond to the emerging threat.
The force’s intelligence team actively monitors and evaluates information about different threats and crime types. The team prioritises these using an established tasking process. However, the force acknowledges that there are gaps in the intelligence it holds on child sexual exploitation and modern slavery. There is limited partnership data available to address these gaps. The force needs to do more to increase its understanding of serious and organised crime and to prioritise the use of its resources where harm is most likely to occur.
The force shares intelligence well with the regional organised crime unit and the NCA. Over the last 12 months it has been working with the south west regional organised crime unit and the newly formed regional organised crime threat assessment team. Working together, they have introduced a new OCG mapping process, using the MoRiLE matrix, enabling them to make risk assessments for OCGs, priority offenders and vulnerable locations. The force currently has 20 mapped OCGs, which equates to 32 OCGs per million population and is line with the England and Wales rate.During inspection fieldwork nine mapped OCGs were identified as county lines. Once the force has identified OCGs, it then maps and reviews them regularly in accordance with national guidance. The majority of the 20 mapped OCGs are linked to the illegal supply of drugs. Many of these OCGs are also involved in other serious criminal activity associated with violence, exploitation, money laundering and serious theft, robbery and burglary. The force assesses if street gangs exist, but as yet there has not been enough evidence to map them or call them an urban street gang.
Serious and organised crime prevention
Gloucestershire Constabulary is proactive in identifying people who might be vulnerable to being drawn into serious and organised crime, including gang-related crime. There is a variety of well-established, force-wide diversion programmes including the Great Expectations and Aston projects which work with young people to divert them from crime. The diversion programmes are recognised by the Home Office and as best practice nationally. The force has started a programme to raise awareness throughout the workforce of the effects of adverse child experiences on people’s behaviour.
Effective arrangements are in place with partner agencies to identify vulnerable young people and divert them from becoming involved in gang activity or organised crime. For example, during an investigation into an OCG in Gloucester, officers identified 32 vulnerable young people who were being exploited by gangs, and who were trafficking drugs. Officers worked alongside partner agencies to talk to the young people and their families and to put protective measures in place. These measures included the use of 11 gang injunctions. The work has led to a large reduction in offending among the young people involved.
The force also works effectively with the regional organised crime unit and the prison service to ensure that it monitors OCG members who are serving prison sentences. The force tells local policing teams about potentially harmful offenders before these offenders are released from prison. The management of lifetime offenders has recently moved to the integrated offender management (IOM) team so that the force can manage offenders more effectively in communities. At the time of our inspection, the force was still in the early stages of developing the governance and structure of the IOM team so we couldn’t evaluate its effectiveness. The force currently has 18 serious crime prevention orders (SCPOs) in place. The IOM team manages these and records activity on the ViSOR database. Each SCPO in the county has been assigned to an intelligence officer who works collaboratively with the LROs and the neighbourhood policing team to monitor compliance and to support the use of disruption tactics.
Disruption and investigation
Gloucestershire Constabulary is taking steps to improve its approach to disrupting and investigating serious and organised crime. The force manages its response to serious organised crime through the strategic tasking review meeting and the service delivery board. The assistant chief constable chairs both meetings. They oversee the monthly tasking meetings which allocate resources to emerging and existing threats. The force has recently re-introduced and restructured an OCG management meeting to provide guidance and tactical advice to LROs on subjects such as ways to tackle county lines. The lack of meetings over the last ten months has limited the force’s ability to review work to ensure that it is making adequate progress in tackling serious organised crime.
We found that the force has improved its use of the ‘4P’ structure (pursue, prevent, protect and prepare). However, only nine of the 20 mapped OCGs have a 4P plan in place. This is an improvement on 2017, but the force’s adoption of these plans needs to be more consistent to ensure that work is fully effective.
The force has a strong and well-established relationship with the regional organised crime unit and we saw recent examples of joint work to disrupt serious organised crime. LROs have been trained to use the full range of techniques available to disrupt OCGs. We found examples of the force using neighbourhood policing teams to disrupt OCGs.
Over the last 12 months the force has made progress in recording and evaluating serious and organised crime disruption work. The force has used independent reviews to obtain feedback. These include a peer support review (August 2017) and a county lines locality review conducted by the violence and vulnerability unit (March 2018). The growth of its evidence base means that the force is now in a better position to evaluate the effectiveness of its disruption operations. The force also evaluates local operations to highlight good practice and lessons learned. For example, Operation Argo targeted an OCG involved in drug supply and other serious offending in Gloucester. It resulted in the arrests of OCG members, the seizure of class A drugs and the closure of three properties using closure orders. The force evaluated the operation and its effect on the local community then publicised the outcomes to promote public awareness.
The force currently has an ineffective approach to tackling criminal finances within serious organised crime. It has a small fraud investigation team and members have been given enhanced training to help them investigate the most complex and serious cases of fraud and disrupt and dismantle OCGs. Members of the fraud team support investigators who have less expertise. Cases are allocated using professional judgment on a case-by-case basis to ensure that team members use their time effectively, but it is not possible to manage financial investigations in all mapped OCGs. The force has identified this problem and has recently appointed an economic crime lead for serious organised crime to ensure that officers who investigate OCGs have sufficient access to expertise.Summary for question 4
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
Understanding the threat and responding to it
Currently, Gloucestershire Constabulary operates joint arrangements with Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Wiltshire Police to provide armed policing. The force has an adequate understanding of the potential harm facing the public. Its APSTRA conforms to the requirements of the code and the College of Policing guidance. The force publishes its APSTRA every year, and the APSTRA 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.
All armed officers in England and Wales are trained to national standards. There are different standards for each role which armed officers perform. Officers trained to an armed response vehicle (ARV) standard attend most armed incidents in Gloucestershire Constabulary’s area. However, incidents sometimes occur which require the skills and specialist capabilities of more highly trained officers.
We found that Gloucestershire Constabulary, Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Wiltshire Police have good joint arrangements in place to mobilise specialist officers should these forces need them. Gloucestershire Constabulary therefore has sufficient specialist capabilities if it should need them.
Working with others
It is important that effective joint working arrangements are in place between neighbouring forces. Armed criminals and terrorists are not constrained by county boundaries. Therefore, 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 one force can call on support from surrounding forces in times of heightened threat.
The current arrangements in place with Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Wiltshire Police mean that Gloucestershire Constabulary can call on additional ARV or specialist capabilities if it should need them. This aligns well with the threats set out in the APSTRA.
We also examined how well prepared forces are to respond to threats and risks. Armed officers in Gloucestershire Constabulary are trained in tactics relevant to recent terrorist attacks. Gloucestershire Constabulary also has an important role in designing training exercises with other organisations which simulate these types of attack. We found that the force reviews training exercises carefully so that it can identify learning points and make improvements for the future.
We found that Gloucestershire Constabulary regularly debriefs incidents attended by armed officers and best practice is identified locally. However, it does not always share best practice and areas for improvement with other forces. We recommend that the force reviews operational debriefing procedures to address this. It is important that it does not overlook opportunities to improve performance.
Since our inspection, the three forces have agreed to end the joint working arrangements effective from 1 April 2019. Current ways of working mean that standards of training, armed deployments and the management of armed operations are the same in all three forces. Ending the current arrangements may undermine this position. In particular we have concerns about:
- the development of isolated practices and procedures which other forces in the region do not recognise; and
- the possibility that armed officers in the three forces will not be able to work together as effectively in the future.
We recognise however that there are plans in place for the three forces to continue to train together. We will track these developments carefully to check that the force maintains standards and that public safety is not adversely affected.Summary for question 5