North Yorkshire Police: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2017
- Overall judgment
- Summary of inspection findings
- How effective is the force at recording reported crime?
- How efficiently do the systems and processes in the force support accurate crime recording?
- How well does the force demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?
- What next?
North Yorkshire Police has taken action to improve crime-recording accuracy since HMICFRS’ 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report. We found that:
- most officers and staff have made progress in placing the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions;
- it has worked hard to improve the knowledge and understanding of crime-recording requirements for modern slavery crimes among officers and staff;
- it has implemented most of the recommendations set out in our 2014 report; and
- it has made good progress against a national action plan developed to improve crime-recording by police forces.
However, we found that more work remains to be done. Despite improvements, based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 February 2017 to 31 July 2017 we estimate that the force fails to record over 9,200 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 80.1 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.86 percent). The 19.9 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include serious crimes such as sexual offences, domestic abuse and rape. The recording rate for violent crime is a particular cause of concern at only 74.9 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.38 percent). This means that, on too many occasions, the force is potentially failing victims of crime.
The force must make improvements in several areas. There are too many failures to make the correct crime-recording decision at the first opportunity. Not all staff and officers have a good understanding of crime-recording requirements, and limited supervision means poor crime-recording decisions are not corrected at the earliest opportunity.
Summary of inspection findings
The force has improved its crime-recording processes since our 2014 report. In particular, we found that:
- progress has been made to implement changes recommended in the 2014 report and, as a result, the force has completed most of these recommendations;
- the force has also made good progress against the action plan developed by the national policing lead on crime statistics following the 2014 report, which all forces have been asked to implement; and
- the force has improved its use of out-of-court disposals (e.g. cautions and community resolutions) and has removed the crime-recording function from the force control room to a dedicated unit called Crime Recording and Occurrence Management Unit (CROMU) which, although recently set up, is intended to improve crime-recording performance.
We also found that the force crime and incident registrar (FCIR), – responsible for oversight of crime-recording arrangements – has completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and is now fully accredited for the role. Her work is supported by two deputies.
Despite these advances, the force’s performance in respect of crime-recording is unsatisfactory in the following areas:
- The force is currently under-recording too many reports of crime, including:
- violent crimes;
- reports of rape; and
- other sexual offences.
The force needs to act promptly to improve the accuracy of its recording of these reports and to provide all victims with the service to which they are entitled and deserve.
We found that:
- crimes reported during incidents involving domestic abuse are not always being recorded;
- incidents which have been disclosed directly to public protection teams as part of multi-agency safeguarding arrangements, and which amount to a crime in law, are not always recorded as such;
- delays in recording of a reported crime are, in some cases, leading to delays in the referral of victims to the force’s victim support service Supporting Victims, letting down those victims who need the early support this service can provide;
- the force is incorrectly cancelling some recorded rape, violence and sexual offences; and
- the force must improve the extent to which it collects information regarding the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities; in particular, groups with identifiable protected characteristics (i.e. gender, sexuality or ethnicity).
Some of these failings are a consequence of officers and staff not understanding their responsibilities for crime-recording. In addition, there is limited supervision of the crime-recording decisions taken by officers and staff.
Cause of concern
In North Yorkshire Police, officers and staff, in some cases, fail to make correct crime-recording decisions at the first opportunity. This is due to deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes, insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements and limited supervision to correct decisions and improve standards from the outset.
The force is failing to ensure it records all reports of rape, other sexual offences and violence, including domestic abuse crimes and crimes reported directly to its public protection departments.
- Within three months, the force should:
- develop and implement procedures for the effective supervision of crime-recording decisions throughout the whole force; and
- review its systems and processes for the recording of classification N100.
- Within six months, North Yorkshire Police should review the operating arrangements of its force control room and CROMU to ensure that these secure the recording of all reported crimes at the first point of report when sufficient information exists to do so and in any event within 24 hours of receipt of the report. This should include:
- a review of the incident types used in Storm – the force’s incident management system – to satisfy itself that when a reported incident contains a report of crime the incident type used correctly indicates that this is the case;
- ensuring that, when a report of crime has been made, dispatchers always pass this information to attending officers thereby assisting them to make correct crime-recording decisions;
- ensuring that incident updates from attending officers are always recorded within incident logs with sufficient accuracy and detail, particularly where this is used to justify not recording a reported crime; and
- satisfying itself as to the effectiveness and efficiency of its arrangements for the recording of crimes through the CROMU.
- Within six months, the force should put in place arrangements to ensure that:
- at the point of report, particularly in domestic abuse cases, greater emphasis is placed on the initial account of the victims; and
- multiple crimes are always recorded when described within incident records or identified as part of other recorded crime investigations.
- Within six months, the force should design and provide training for all staff that make crime-recording decisions. This should include training on:
- the information needed for a crime-recording decision to be made;
- the expectation that reported crime is recorded at the first point that sufficient information exists to record a crime, which in most cases will be at the point of report;
- the importance, for the purpose of making a crime-recording decision, of believing the first account of the victim, particularly with regard to domestic abuse incidents;
- the correct application of incident types when opening and closing an incident record in Storm;
- the recording of rape crimes, particularly where the victim suffers from mental health problems or the victim or suspect are under the age of 13; and the proper use of classification N100 for reports of rape;
- incidents involving multiple crime records, particularly those reported during an on-going investigation into a previously recorded crime;
- malicious communications, harassment, common assault, public order offences and offences of make, take or distribute indecent images of children; and
- the additional verifiable information required in order to make crime-cancellation decisions.
Areas for improvement
The force should immediately:
- ensure that the arrangements they have in place to inform victims upon the cancellation of a recorded crime are adhered to.
- review the processes in place for the identification and recording of reports of crime received directly into its public protection department from partner organisations (such as social services), and from internal sources and ensure these systems support the correct recording of these crimes in accordance with the crime-recording rules.
- improve how it collects diversity information from victims of crime and how it uses this to inform its compliance with its equality duty.
How effective is the force at recording reported crime?
Overall crime-recording rate
80.1% of reported crimes were recorded
Over 9,200 reports of crime a year are not recorded
North Yorkshire Police has considerable work to do in order to ensure it records all reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR). We examined reports of crime which the force received, and for which an auditable record was created. The force informed HMICFRS that all crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime-reporting route.
We found that the force recorded 80.1 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.86 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 9,200 reports of crime each year. Those failings are depriving many victims of the services to which they are entitled and are a cause of concern.
Of a total of 1,711 reports of crime that we audited, we assessed 327 to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these 327 crimes, the force had recorded 243. The 84 offences not recorded included 60 violent crimes, a sexual offence and several criminal damage, malicious communications and public order offences.
We found that many of these reports involved reporting a crime at the first point of contact with the force, but these crime reports went unrecorded with insufficient justification to explain why.
In the crimes not recorded we found safeguarding requirements had been considered in most of these cases but that around half of these were not investigated. This included cases involving actual bodily harm, a case of coercive and controlling behaviour and a sexual assault. The absence of an investigation may have increased significantly the potential risk of harm to these victims.
Under-recording crimes relating to domestic abuse incidents, and failure to provide a satisfactory service to these victims, are a cause of concern. This is because domestic abuse often involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to further offences being committed against them.
Factors contributing to the force’s under-recording of crime reports are its crime-recording processes, the crime-recording knowledge of its workforce and the limited capacity of supervisors to provide effective oversight of crime-recording decisions.
- Deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes are a cause of concern. In particular, we found that:
- At the time of the audit the force had experienced a sharp rise in call volume and consequently force control room performance deteriorated. Crimes were recorded in the force control room by trained crime-recorders. These staff were responsible for answering 999 and 101 calls and were under severe pressure to perform both roles. Their priority was to answer calls and therefore crime-recording was not afforded the attention required.
- Attending officers are sometimes unclear on who has responsibility for recording a report of crime when the investigation of the crime rests elsewhere; this results in some crimes not being recorded.
- When there is no requirement for an officer to attend a reported incident, or when further offences come to light after the initial deployment or during subsequent investigation, the force does not always record reported crimes.
- Incident records that contain multiple reports of crime often result in only one crime report being recorded.
- Where further crimes are identified they are often referred to within an existing crime record when, in fact, an additional crime record should be created.
The force has already taken steps to address some of these deficiencies through the introduction of CROMU. Although new, we found that this team has a good understanding of crime-recording requirements. This is welcome. The force should continue to monitor performance in this area to satisfy itself that the development of this team results in the significant improvement to crime-recording accuracy that is needed.
However, in addition we found that:
- Call-handlers (who receive reports of crime by telephone) and frontline officers are not always sure about crime-recording requirements, and there is a lack of experience and knowledge among some recently recruited staff.
- basic crime-recording principles and knowledge of crime-recording requirements relating to common assault, harassment, malicious communications, public order offences and make, take or distribute indecent images of children are not always understood;
- call-handlers sometimes apply the wrong incident type to an incident thus making it unclear that it involves the commission of a crime;
- at the point of reporting, on occasion, when assessing whether, on the balance of probability, an offence has been committed, insufficient emphasis has been given to the account of the victim; and
- dispatchers do not always pass all available information to attending officers thereby making accurate crime-recording decisions difficult; similarly the updates and results from attending officers are not always recorded within incident logs with sufficient accuracy and detail.
- A further problem relates to the force’s supervision of its crime-recording decisions. We found this requires improvement. In particular:
- Where an officer is deployed to an incident, the responsibility for supervising crime-recording decisions rests with frontline supervisors. However, these supervisors do not have the capacity to scrutinise adequately all crime-related incidents to satisfy themselves that crime-recording decisions are correct.
- The force has a process whereby any domestic incident opened as a domestic crime in Storm needs to be assessed by a sergeant and inspector if no crime is being recorded. This is a robust process, however, we found that the seriousness of these incidents is often not appreciated and insufficient consideration is given to crime-recording requirements when reviewed by the sergeant and inspector.
- The force has a large number of constables carrying out the role of temporary sergeant. This inevitably results in a dilution of the knowledge and experience required to achieve accurate crime-recording across the whole force.
- Control room supervisors do not have the capacity to scrutinise adequately all crime-related incidents to satisfy themselves that crime-recording decisions are correct.
Violence against the person
74.9% of reported violent crimes were recorded
Over 3,300 reports of violent crime a year are not recorded
We found that 74.9 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.38 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 3,300 violent crimes that are reported to it each year. As violent crime can be particularly distressing for the victim, this is an area in which the need for improvement is particularly acute.
Many of the violent crimes not recorded by the force involve injury, which can cause even further distress for the victim. Therefore we find the force’s failure to record reported violent crime to be a serious cause of concern.
In the majority of cases where violent crimes were not recorded, we found the principal causes to be that:
- the processes currently in place for recording a reported crime (described earlier) were deficient;
- officers and staff did not understand adequately the crime-recording rules, particularly about the complexities of some violence offences such as harassment, malicious communications and common assault; and
- there was a lack of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.
Victims of violent crime and, in particular, victims of more serious violence, often require substantial support. This support should come not only from the reporting and investigating officers, but from other appropriate agencies, such as Supporting Victims – the force in-house team which supports victims of crime. In these circumstances, crime-recording is even more important because failing to record a violent crime may mean that Supporting Victims is not notified that a person has become a victim of violent crime and so cannot offer victims the support they need and deserve.
89.5% of reported sex offences were recorded
Over 170 reports of sex offences a year are not recorded
The force’s recording of reports of sexual offences (excluding rape) must improve. We found that the force records 89.5 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.88 percent). We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 170 reported sexual offence crimes each year.
Those failings are significant because of the very serious nature of sexual offences and the harm they cause to their victims. We found, for example, that the force failed to record reports of sexual assault against both adults and children and sexual activity with a child.
The causes of that under-recording are similar to those identified above for violent crime which were:
- the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime; and
- a lack of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.
Sexual offence victims require significant support from the outset. The failure to record such crimes, to provide appropriate support to the victim, or any delay in attendance or investigation will often result in a lack of confidence in the police and reluctance on behalf of the victim to engage in subsequent stages of the criminal justice system. The force must improve its performance in this respect.
94 of 103 audited rape reports were accurately recorded
Rape is one of the most serious sexual offence crimes a victim can experience. Therefore, the accurate recording of such reports is especially important. It helps to ensure victims receive the service they have a right to expect and deserve, and it allows the police to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area. In turn, this enables the police to operate with the highest practicable levels of efficiency to identify and deal effectively with perpetrators.
We found 103 reports of rape that should have been recorded, but only 94 of these had been recorded. These include reports that originated on the force incident system, reports received directly by specialist officers from third-party professionals, and from a review of N100 records (see below).
We found that in three of these missed crimes, adequate safeguarding was not put in place and two of them were not sufficiently investigated. In one of these cases the crime was not recorded because the victim was suffering from mental health issues and officers did not properly understand how to deal with her ability to consent. She subsequently reported being victim to the same offender on a second occasion and the force is now investigating these matters.
The reasons for these nine crimes not being recorded were:
- the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for recording a reported crime;
- officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules; for example four of the missed crimes of rape were incorrectly recorded as a different crime and in some cases the wrong decision had been taken not to record a crime due to officers not understanding the issue of consent to participate in sexual activity; and
- lack of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.
There are, in addition, some problems surrounding the force’s use of the Home Office classification N100. Introduced in April 2015, the N100 is a record created to explain why reported incidents of rape or attempted rapes, whether from victims, witnesses or third parties, have not been recorded immediately as a confirmed crime. This can include instances where additional information confirms the rape did not occur, or where the rape occurred in another force area and was therefore transferred to the relevant force to record and investigate.
We found 20 incident reports for which an N100 classification should have been applied, but it was only applied in 12 of them.
Separately, we also examined 22 sample records where an N100 classification had been used and found that 20 were correctly recorded. The remaining two were correctly changed to a crime of rape and a crime of sexual assault.
We found very little understanding of the N100 classification among frontline officers, including those working in the specialist safeguarding department or the force control room. Awareness was good in the force crime management unit and CROMU, which are co-located, and responsible for the initial assessment, review and filing of all crimes. In addition, all N100 reports are recorded by a deputy FCIR who checks all incidents of a sexual nature and identifies those requiring the N100 classification. However, as the force has changed this post holder the knowledge required to undertake this task well has been lacking.
The force must ensure that it uses classification N100 consistently on all relevant occasions in order to minimise the delay in recording an offence of rape.
The recording of a report of rape is important. Victims generally require significant support from the outset and any delay in providing support can harm both the recovery of the victim and any investigation. This, in turn, can have a negative effect on future court proceedings. This is an area for improvement.
How efficiently do the systems and processes in the force support accurate crime recording?
Crime reports held on other systems
30 of 44 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded
In order to be confident that vulnerable victims always receive the support they need, the force must improve its recording of crimes reported directly to its public protection teams.
We examined 75 vulnerable victim records. Of these, we found that 44 crimes should have been recorded, of which 30 had been. The unrecorded crimes involved crimes committed against both vulnerable adults and children and included one case of child neglect, two assaults and one sexual assault. We were pleased to find that all relevant safeguarding was undertaken, however only half of these cases were investigated.
The reasons these crimes are not being recorded are the same as those identified for other offences. There is a lack of understanding about who has responsibility for recording crimes where uniformed and specialist staff are involved in the report. It is also clear that, while staff working in the force safeguarding teams are very focused on safeguarding vulnerable victims, recording crimes reported to them is not their first priority.
Recording these reports of crime is important as it allows the police to identify and understand the nature and extent of crime experienced by vulnerable adults and children, and to ensure it has adequate resources in place to protect these victims from harm. This is an area for improvement
Offences relating to modern slavery are an important and recent addition to the crimes that forces must record and investigate. Therefore, we reviewed the recording of reports of modern slavery offences. In addition, we examined the force’s understanding of the origin of such reports.
We examined 15 modern slavery crimes, all of which were correctly recorded, as was an associated crime of rape. The accurate recording of these offences is excellent.
We also examined a further 15 reported incidents of modern slavery and assessed them to contain 15 reports of crime, 8 of which had been recorded as crimes. The 7 unrecorded crimes included one of modern slavery and a separate incident in which 6 offences of sexual activity with a child were not recorded. This was a complicated enquiry involving numerous offenders and crimes. Four crimes were recorded.
The force works regionally, nationally and internationally in its efforts to tackle modern slavery. We found that officers and staff have a good, basic knowledge of modern slavery offences, of their respective responsibilities in relation to the recording of such offences, and where they can find further information.
The HOCR require that reports of crime are recorded within 24 hours of receipt of the report. We found that, of the reports of crime that had been recorded by North Yorkshire Police, only 74 out of 94 reports of rape, 335 out 448 reports of violent crime, 184 out of 257 sexual offences (excluding rape) and 536 out of 634 other offences had been recorded within 24 hours of receipt of the report.
Although some victims may be referred to support agencies in other ways, the delay in recording a reported crime also delays the referral of the victim to Supporting Victims. As some victims would benefit from the early support this service can provide, these delays are unacceptable.
We found that these delays can be attributed to:
- not always recording all crimes reported as part of a single incident;
- failure to always record a reported crime at the first opportunity, sometimes delaying this until after an appointment with the victim; and
- call handlers incorrectly classifying reports of crime as non-crime incidents.
Where additional verifiable information (AVI) is obtained to show that a recorded crime did not occur, the crime record can be cancelled. In this respect we found that the force needs to improve.
We reviewed 22 cancelled recorded crimes each of rape, violence and sexual offence crimes (excluding rape) and three of robbery. Of these, we found that the FCIR had correctly cancelled 20 of the rape crimes. Other crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of designated staff, known as designated decision-makers (DDMs). The DDMs had correctly cancelled 18 out of 22 sexual offences, 20 out of 22 violence offences and 3 out of 3 robbery offences.
We also found that many officers and staff had a very limited understanding of what counts as AVI for the purpose of cancelling a recorded crime. The process applied by the force allows officers to make several attempts to have a crime cancelled without appropriate supervision and is not efficient.
A victim should always be informed of the status of his or her reported crime when a crime has been cancelled or transferred to another force for investigation. In the case of a decision to cancel a recorded crime, the very least the victim should expect is an explanation of the reason for this decision. We found that of the 53 victims who should have been informed of the transfer or cancellation, 41 had been told. This is an area for improvement.
Code of Practice for Victims of Crime
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime provides clear guidance to police forces regarding the service that should be provided to the victims of crime. We have concluded that the force is aware of its responsibilities under this code. In particular, we found that the force, after it records a crime, leaves all victims seen by an attending officer with a victim of crime booklet which provides detail of the offence they have reported and contact details along with the support services available to them. Those victims who report a crime over the phone receive the same booklet and a covering letter.
All victims of crime whose reports of crime are recorded by North Yorkshire Police (except victims of domestic abuse, rape and serious sexual offences who are referred to other more specialist services) are referred to the in-house Supporting Victims team who conduct a victim needs assessment then make appropriate and agreed referrals to support services. We found this to be a good process which considers victim needs effectively.
We also found that officers and staff are aware of their responsibilities under the code.
HMICFRS found that the force must improve in its collection of information regarding crimes affecting identifiable groups within communities.
Protected characteristics, such as gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, religion and age, do not necessarily increase the vulnerability of an individual to the risk of crime. However, it is important that the force records information regarding the characteristics of victims of crime. This helps them to identify any patterns which may exist between different community groups and their vulnerability to (or their relative likelihood to report) different types of crime.
Importantly, as long as the force fails to record such information, it will be unable to understand clearly whether its crime-recording decisions are consistent across different community groups. This is therefore an area for improvement.
Officer and staff survey
We conducted a survey of officers and staff in North Yorkshire Police of their experience in respect of crime-recording. Some 268 respondents completed the survey. We were pleased to find that the vast majority of respondents believe that doing the right thing for the victim is the aim of the force and this has been reinforced by senior managers. Furthermore, staff were clear that they no longer felt under any pressure to minimise the number of crimes recorded on the basis of performance targets.
How well does the force demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?
Despite the deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes, including the limited supervision applied to crime-recording decisions, overall we found good leadership from senior officers in North Yorkshire Police in regard to crime-recording expectations, and an approach among the majority of officers and staff that places the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions.
The force has made good progress against the national action plan, developed by the national policing lead on crime statistics after our 2014 report, which all forces have been asked to implement.
Additionally, good progress has been made with implementing changes recommended in our 2014 report, and as a result the force has satisfactorily completed most of these recommendations. Those not completed have been superseded by the new recommendations above.
The role of the FCIR is important to ensuring crime-recording arrangements are effective. However, the FCIR’s capacity to undertake force audits had been significantly reduced for over 9 months, as a result of both deputy FCIR posts being vacant. These vacancies have now been filled by staff who do not yet have the experience or the expertise to fully undertake the requirements of the role. The force should keep the resourcing of this important function under regular review so as to satisfy itself that it is able to have a full and clear understanding of the effectiveness and efficiency of its crime-recording arrangements.
We also note that the force is undertaking a review of the CROMU to ensure resourcing levels are appropriate and that the functions undertaken by this team support improvements to its crime-recording arrangements. This is welcome.
North Yorkshire Police has made progress in its crime-recording processes since 2014. However, improvements must continue to be made.
The strong leadership and positive approach among the majority of officers and staff toward victims is welcome. However, the force needs to improve the crime-recording process, ensuring that its staff and officers fully understand the crime-recording standards expected of them, and that these standards are supervised effectively.
HMICFRS expects the force urgently to make progress implementing recommendations we make in this report.
The serious causes of concern found during this inspection are such that HMICFRS will re-visit the force in due course to assess progress.