It is crucial that crime is recorded correctly and ethically by our police forces. This is a matter of police integrity, of treating victims with respect and of ensuring that officers have accurate information as they work both to prevent crime and bring criminals to justice.
As Police and Crime Commissioner, I have made it a priority to understand and scrutinise Essex Police’s processes for recording crime, and I have given evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee’s (PASC) investigation of crime data integrity.
Some of the key findings of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) report into crime data integrity in Essex, published on August 28, 2014, are as follows:
– Of the 169 incident records examined by HMIC 132 crimes should have been recorded, of which 121 were recorded by Essex Police. Two were wrongly classified and 14 recorded outside the 72 hour limit allowed by HOCR. HMIC see this as a good result demonstrating accuracy of the force’s crime recording practices.
– HMIC dip-sampled 20 cautions and found all suitable to receive a caution. In all 17 cases the offender was made aware of the future implications of accepting a caution. Of the 11 cases with a victim to consult, 10 showed the victim’s views had been considered.
– All of the 19 Penalty Notices for disorder and 23 cannabis warnings dip sampled by HMIC were found to be suitable disposals.
– Of the 73 no-crime records examined 68 were found to be compliant. Comprehensive monitoring and auditing is undertaken by the force. Staff authorised to make no-crime decisions has been reduced from 40 to two, to achieve a consistent approach.
– There is a strong culture of considering victim’s views when applying community resolution, showing good practice whereby the force places the victim at the heat of the decision making process.
– HMIC noted strong and committed chief officer leadership for crime data integrity with consistent and clear guidance
The HMIC report is encouraging. It confirms that strong leadership from Chief Constable Kavanagh and his senior team is ensuring a culture of recording crime ethically and accurately becomes embedded in Essex Police.
To ensure that reports of rape are recorded correctly, and in a timely fashion, Essex Police is implementing a new policy to reinforce further the requirements and expectations on officers around the recording of reports of rape. The HMIC findings were not bad, but there is room for Essex Police to improve still further in this important and sensitive area.
As PCC, I continue to encourage everyone to report crime to the force. My undertaking to the people of Essex is that I will keep an unflinching focus on ensuring that reported crime is recorded accurately in our county.
I have written before about the damaging consequences that target cultures have produced in police forces. One example is that in a force with an objective to reduce burglary, cultural pressure can arise for officers to record an attempted burglary where no entry was gained as criminal damage. This would prevent it showing as a burglary.
I am confident that in Essex, both attempted burglaries and burglaries are recorded accurately. This is crucial not only as part of the social compact with victims, but also to ensure police resources are deployed in an informed and intelligence-led fashion.
Although I have abolished specific crime reduction targets in Essex, the force has achieved an almost ten per cent reduction in house burglary through the use of the ‘predictive policing’ techniques of Operation Insight.
Insight relies on the very latest crime data to identify where future burglaries are most likely to occur, and then to mobilise police, partner and community resources appropriately. This innovative operation depends entirely on reliable data.
Hopefully, this example helps make clear that accurate and ethical recording of crime is not just an academic point. It helps Essex Police and partner agencies to make our communities safer and bring criminals to justice.
In the aftermath of the report into the horrendous cases of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary has written of the local police practice:
“This culture of dealing with reports of crime shows a disregard for victims and is unacceptable; it hides the true extent of the picture of crime from the force and is particularly concerning when the offences investigated by this unit are often of the most serious nature and victims are often the most vulnerable.”
If we ever become led by chasing targets rather than targeting harm, we are letting down the most vulnerable in our society. In Essex, Chief Constable Kavanagh has my full support in deploying any resources he judges necessary to uncover and tackle those hidden harms that cause so much distress..
Since I became PCC, we have seen an increase in reports to police of historically under-reported crimes such as serious sexual offences, hate crime and domestic abuse. I will state, as clearly as I can, that victims must continue to have the confidence to report such crimes to Essex Police so that they can be investigated, and perpetrators can be brought to justice. And I will commit to continue to scrutinise police performance to ensure that victims are supported and professional investigations are undertaken.
I will end this blog where I began: recording crime accurately and ethically is crucial if we are to use our policing resources effectively and efficiently to protect and support victims, to free our police officers truly to tackle harm in our society and bring criminals to justice.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex
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