Cambridgeshire police labelled as 'requiring improvement' at investigating crime and responding to the public in official report

PEEL report says victims of crime in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire ‘may not always get the service they deserve’

By Stephen Briggs
Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 5:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 12:24 pm

An official report has found that Cambridgeshire police need to improve at investigating crime and responding to the public.

In the latest inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), Roy Wilsher HM Inspector of Constabulary said: “The constabulary has made some improvement to its attendance to calls for service, but it still isn’t routinely attending incidents quickly enough. If the constabulary doesn’t attend incidents in time, it can cause victims to lose confidence in it, or in more serious cases to be put directly at risk. This is an area for improvement.”

Mr Wilsher added: “The constabulary must improve how it investigates and supervises crime. I saw examples of good outcomes secured for victims of crime, but the constabulary doesn’t supervise investigations effectively and doesn’t consistently set initial investigation plans. This means victims may not always get the service they deserve.”

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The report has been published today

The inspection saw the force graded in nine separate areas – with Cambridgeshire Police receiving four ‘Good’ grades, three ‘Adequate’ grades and two ‘Requires Improvement’ grades. They received no top ‘Outstanding’ or bottom ‘Inadequate’ grades.

The areas rated good were recording data about crime, protecting vulnerable people, developing a positive work place, and good use of resources.

Criticism of response to 101 calls

The time it takes for ‘non-emergency’ calls on the 101 line to be answered was criticised, with the report saying: “The constabulary doesn’t promptly resolve non-emergency calls. These calls, made on the 101 number, are triaged by a switchboard operator and forwarded to the most

appropriate destination. This might be to the emergency 999 line, but more often it is to a secondary line for another department. There are delays on this secondary line that often cause callers to abandon the call. Constabulary data shows that the rate of abandonment of these non-emergency calls was above the national standard of 5 percent for forces with a switchboard. We also found evidence of callers placed on a non-emergency line abandoning the call and then calling 999.”

Reports of rape ‘aren’t always recorded appropriately’

The report also raised concerns about how vulnerable victims of crime were treated.

Mr Wilsher said: “The constabulary doesn’t always record crimes against vulnerable victims. Some of the crimes missed were crimes of a serious nature, such as rape, indecent images of children, and controlling and coercive behaviour. When the crime wasn’t recorded there was often no investigation and sometimes no safeguarding of the victim.”

He also said there were some issues with how rape offences were recorded, saying: “The constabulary records almost all sexual offences correctly, but reports of rape aren’t always recorded appropriately. Rape is one of the most serious crimes a victim can experience, so it is especially important that crimes are recorded accurately to make sure victims receive the service and support they expect and deserve.”

Praise for team investigating paedophiles

There was praise for the force in the report.

Mr Wilsher said: “The constabulary’s strategic, threat and risk assessment (known as CAMSTRA) is a well co-ordinated and comprehensive corporate planning cycle that combines analysis of current demand and forecasting of future demand effectively. It allows the constabulary to manage the expected future demand and risk and to understand the costs of doing so.”

The way the force records crime was given praise, with special attention given to the way it has improved recording violent crime.

However, it was estimated that the constabulary didn’t record more than 4,500 crimes during the year covered by the inspection.

The way the force engages with different communities in the county was also highlighted as another positive.

Support given to officers in ‘high impact roles’ – including those on the child abuse investigation or paedophile online teams – to prevent burnout was highlighted as being a major benefit to the staff.

The report added: “The constabulary has made several improvements to how it responds to offenders who access indecent images of children. The constabulary now records its use of the Kent internet risk assessment tool to triage the risk of each case. It works with children’s social care and other agencies to share information earlier on in the investigation than was previously done. It also meets with them more regularly to improve working relationships and processes.

"To tackle offenders more effectively, the constabulary has increased resources in the paedophile online team. It has hired more staff on a temporary basis to reduce the backlog of outstanding cases. Staff that work in this challenging area are well trained. They have access to the

technology they need to effectively identify and pursue offenders.”

Inspectors also found that the force was ‘improving its understanding of use of force,’ and communication with residents using both social media and the e-cops scheme had been a success.

‘I congratulate the officers and staff for their efforts in keeping the public safe’

In conclusion, Mr Wilsher said: “While I congratulate the officers and staff of Cambridgeshire Constabulary for their efforts in keeping the public safe, I will monitor the progress towards addressing the areas I have identified that the constabulary can improve further.”

These gradings highlight the good work the constabulary has done to ensure we are keeping our communities safe

Chief Constable Nick Dean, said: "We welcome the recent HMICFRS report and which grades the force as Good in four key areas including crime recording, protecting vulnerable people, using its resources and developing its workforce, and adequate in a further three areas of policing. These gradings highlight the good work the constabulary has done to ensure we are keeping our communities safe. The report highlights that there are some areas in which the force can improve on going forward.

“The report highlights that there is good confidence in the force’s crime recording processes. In terms of public trust and confidence in those processes the constabulary was graded as GOOD in relation to recording data about crime and was found to be recording 99% of sexual offences. The constabulary remains focused on ensuring all crimes are recorded appropriately and there are robust processes in place to ensure this takes place. The force has a comprehensive plan to support the investigation of crimes such as domestic abuse and sexual offences. These plans are supported by strong partnership approaches including a well-established multi-agency sexual assault referral centre, which is performing, as per a Care Quality Commission assessment, to a very high standard. In addition we have a cohort of specially trained officers to support victims working within a dedicated rape investigation team that has a number of experienced specialist officers. They work in tandem with a coordinated team of independent sexual violence advisers who provide ongoing welfare support. Our investigative response to those who have been victims of sexual offences is further strengthened by the introduction of Vulnerability Focus Desks, which HMICFRS identified as innovative practice, and Early Intervention Domestic Abuse desks which have enhanced our initial and ongoing response to these allegations. Officers are given additional expertise and guidance and are helped to signpost victims to the array of support networks provided by our partners and increase the likelihood of achieving a successful outcome.

“The constabulary is proud of the acknowledgement of four particular areas of innovation identified by the HMICFRS:

Highly effective planning processes that allow it to allocate its resources to where they are most needed

Sharing information with partner agencies at an early stage when it concerns offenders accessing indecent images of children

The introduction of a specialist vulnerability force desk to enhance its frontline response when dealing with vulnerable people

Its wellbeing provisions to support staff in high impact roles such as child abuse investigations

“Since the inspection the force has harnessed the learning from the COVID 19 pandemic, and has developed enhanced engagement plans which are delivered through our neighbourhood policing teams to ensure we are listening to our communities and responding to their concerns. This approach is supported a problem solving approach with our community safety partners to achieve long term prevention.

“We continue to strive to be the best we can and to keep Cambridgeshire safe."

The Peterborough Telegraph has contacted Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Police and Crime Commissioner Darryl Preston for comment about the findings in the report.

To read a full copy of the report, visit https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/