West Mercia PEEL 2018
How effectively does the force reduce crime and keep people safe?
West Mercia Police is good at preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour (ASB).
The force prioritises crime prevention. It focuses on problem solving and early intervention. It is developing a new neighbourhood policing strategy.
While the force is good at protecting the public from harm, it needs to clarify its approach to problem solving and risk management plans (RMPs).
The force needs to improve the ways in which it investigates crime. It does not have enough capacity and capability to cope with investigative demand. This is adversely affecting the service that it gives to the public: it is keeping victims waiting too long to see an officer, and it is sometimes taking too long to investigate crimes. This is a cause of concern. We note that more victims withdraw support for police action than in most other forces.
The force needs to improve its approach to catching criminals and resolving investigations. It needs to put processes in place so that it prioritises effectively those suspects who represent the most harm to the public.
The force needs to improve the way in which it protects vulnerable people. The workforce has a good understanding of vulnerability. This includes the importance of identifying and safeguarding vulnerable people. But the force is missing opportunities to make arrests in some domestic abuse cases. It needs to be sure that it is producing thorough domestic abuse, stalking and harassment (DASH) risk assessments. And it could use pre-charge bail more effectively.
The force is good at tackling SOC, which represents a significant improvement in its performance over the past year. It considers threats, harm and risks daily. It identifies new organised crime groups (OCGs), gangs and networks. And it proactively gains information from other forces to understand and tackle county lines criminality.
How effective is the force at preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe?
West Mercia Police is good at preventing crime and tackling ASB.
The force prioritises crime prevention, and its safer neighbourhood teams (SNTs) give good coverage across communities. In April 2018, the force launched its new approach to neighbourhood policing. This focuses on problem solving and early intervention. The force is now developing a new neighbourhood policing strategy too.
The force’s SNT officers are committed to solving problems and preventing crime. Sometimes, the force deploys them to non-emergency incidents that do not directly relate to their role. However, it does appropriately involve them in force-wide risks.
SNTs and officers vary in terms of consulting the public. We noted one team’s innovative use of Facebook Live, which more than tripled the number of participants in its community forum.
If the force had a strategic view of problem-solving performance, it could be more confident that these teams are supporting force priorities as effectively as possible.
The force is good at protecting the public from harm. Officers understand the threats that their communities face. And they have a good understanding of community needs from area beat profiles.
The force’s recruitment of partnership analysts should improve information sharing with partner organisations. The harm reduction units (HRUs) are an effective community safety resource.
Given the views of some officers, the force would benefit from clarifying its approach to problem solving and RMPs.
Areas for improvement
- The force should introduce a performance framework to hold officers and staff to account for effective crime prevention activity.
How effective is the force at investigating crime and reducing re-offending?
West Mercia Police requires improvement in the way in which it investigates crime.
At times, the force does not have enough capacity and capability to cope with investigative demand. This adversely affects the service that it gives to the public. The force keeps victims waiting too long to see an officer, and it takes too long to investigate some crimes. Sometimes, it tasks response officers with investigating more complex crimes. It needs to improve the quality of its investigations.
We found many supportive supervisors within the force. Some admitted that they cannot adequately supervise the high number of crimes that officers are responsible for in their teams. This view was borne out by our review of a sample of crime files: approximately half had ineffective or no supervision. The sample included more serious offences that detectives investigate.
The force needs to improve its approach to catching criminals and resolving investigations. The force has good processes relating to wanted suspects who are listed on the Police National Computer (PNC). It also manages foreign national offenders (FNOs) to minimise the risk of them re-offending. Among other measures, it needs to put processes in place so that it understands and prioritises effectively those suspects who represent the most harm to the public. It also needs a better understanding of its performance in relation to suspects who are released under investigation (RUI), and to comply better with its disclosure obligations.
Cause of concern
The force does not have the capacity or capability to investigate crime effectively and this is affecting the service being provided to the public. There are failings in the way that crimes are being investigated.
To address this cause of concern, we recommend that within six months the force should:
- improve how it responds to reports of crimes, how it then allocates them, ensuring it allocates investigations to appropriately trained and supported officers, and that it reviews this allocation appropriately throughout the investigation;
- ensure regular and active supervision of the quality and progress of investigations. This supervision should be properly recorded;
- improve its ability to retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices quickly enough to ensure investigations are not delayed;
- take steps to better understand the data relating to its crime outcomes and put actions in place to ensure that it is effectively pursuing justice on behalf of victims;
- improve its understanding of suspects released under investigation and the management of those released on bail;
- introduce consistent processes to effectively manage the risk posed by suspects who are under investigation but have not yet been arrested or circulated as wanted on PNC; and
- introduce effective arrangements to ensure it complies fully with its disclosure obligations.
How effective is the force at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm, and supporting victims?
The force needs to improve the way in which it protects vulnerable people.
The workforce has a good understanding of vulnerability, including the importance of identifying and safeguarding vulnerable people. Officers told us that they regularly look for hidden vulnerability. During our inspection, there was evidence of this.
However, during our inspection, we were told of a ‘drift’ in the culture of positive action at domestic abuse incidents within the force.
The force creates a greater proportion of domestic abuse reports as emergency or priority responses than the England and Wales rate. This demonstrates that these cases are being appropriately flagged, which is positive. However, according to our review of incidents, the force does not always give these incidents an appropriate or timely response. This potentially puts victims at risk.
The force needs to continue its efforts to improve the workforce’s understanding of the importance of thoroughly risk-assessing reports of domestic abuse. We note the lack of a force-wide analysis of DASH quality and completion rates.
The force does not always use pre-charge bail for high-risk domestic abuse cases.
Also, as a result of different approaches within the force to multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs), the force may not be addressing risks most effectively.
We note that the force is planning to review the effectiveness of MARAC arrangements within its 2019 vulnerability review.
Areas for improvement
- The force should consistently enforce bail conditions to better safeguard vulnerable people.
- The force should implement effective measures to ensure that information is shared with schools promptly and effectively when children have been affected by domestic abuse incidents.
- The force should review the MARAC referral process and consider the need for greater partner involvement in the decision making process to ensure high risk victims of domestic abuse are not being placed at further risk as a result.
- The force should work with partners to introduce effective MASH arrangements in all parts of the force.
- The force should work with partners to implement the mental health crisis care concordat.
How effective is the force at tackling serious and organised crime?
The force is good at tackling SOC, which represents a significant improvement in its performance since we last inspected this area of policing. It is a force priority, and the force understands the threat it poses. According to its own analysis, the threat posed by MSHT represents the force’s biggest intelligence gap.
The force considers threats, harms and risks daily. It consults relevant forces and intelligence units so that it can co-ordinate appropriate responses. The force also ensures an exchange of relevant information about county lines criminality.
The force’s local profiles for each area have created opportunities for it to commission analysis. For example, it is evaluating first-time entrants into the justice system and whether there is any connection with adverse childhood experiences they may have suffered.
The force has effective processes for managing OCGs. It is proactive in identifying new OCGs, gangs and networks. SNTs collect intelligence that helps the force to identify and tackle OCG activity.
The force does good work to prevent SOC, and to identify those who are at risk of being drawn into organised crime. For example, it works with partner organisations to protect those who are at risk of cuckooing. It has also used legislation to protect a child victim of county lines criminality.
The force does not yet measure or analyse the community impact or effect of its activities to tackle OCGs, urban street gangs (USGs) and county lines. But it does plan to do so.
Areas for improvement
- The force should continue to improve its understanding of the impact of its work on serious and organised crime across the four Ps. This will ensure that it learns from experience to maximise the disruptive effect on this type of criminal activity.
It should be noted that West Mercia Police has invested substantially in this area since our last inspection. It has also sought advice and support from colleagues in other areas of public safety and outside forces. Some of the initiatives implemented by the force to tackle SOC, while very new, are becoming worthy of notice.Detailed findings for question 4
How effective are the force’s specialist capabilities?
We have previously inspected how well forces provide armed policing. This formed part of our 2016 and 2017 effectiveness inspections. Subsequent terrorist attacks in the UK and Europe have meant that the police service maintains a focus on armed capability in England and Wales.
It is not just terrorist attacks that place operational demands on armed officers. The threat can include the activity of OCGs or armed street gangs and all other crime involving guns. The Code of Practice on the Police Use of Firearms and Less Lethal Weapons makes forces responsible for implementing national standards of armed policing. The code stipulates that a chief officer be designated to oversee these standards. This requires the chief officer to set out the firearms threat in an armed policing strategic threat and risk assessment (APSTRA). The chief officer must also set out clear rationales for the number of armed officers (armed capacity) and the level to which they are trained (armed capability).Detailed findings for question 5