Cambridgeshire police have promised a better response to crime victims after being told it ‘requires improvement’ by government inspectors.
The determined response from senior figures comes after HMICFRS raised “serious concerns” about the quality of some investigations by the force.
Deputy Chief Constable Alan Baldwin and Police and Crime Commissioner Jason Ablewhite said 105 new frontline officers in the next year will deliver a better service to residents, bringing an improved verdict from inspectors next year.
Both men also apologised after it was reported that the force took an average of 15 hours to attend ‘prompt’ calls from Peterborough residents about domestic abuse.
Calls are classed as prompt when there is not an immediate concern that a person is going to be harmed, but police are still expected to attend inside an hour.
Mr Baldwin said the inspection took place at a time of “exceptional” demand for the force, which has since calmed down.
He told the Peterborough Telegraph: “In September the service was not good enough but there was a reason for that. The demand has since reduced and the capacity increased and we are making further improvements.
“Those victims we did not respond to particularly well I would apologise to.”
Mr Ablewhite described the 15 hour average waiting times as “not acceptable.”
Both senior figures are now confident a new policing model, which will see more than 100 new officers join the frontline in the next 12 months, will prevent a repeat of last September’s difficulties, which even saw a small number of victims asked to collect CCTV evidence and complete initial enquiries on less-serious crimes themselves,
This was described as “inappropriate” by inspectors.
The report also states:
. Delays in attending some crime scenes means not all evidence is collected and preserved
. The force is good at bringing perpetrators of fraud to justice and at protecting vulnerable people from being targeted
. Inspectors were “disappointed” PCSOs were involved in conducting some investigations
. A sample of 60 investigations showed they were of an “inconsistent standard,” with problems identified in 12 files, two of which were “serious concerns”
. The force made good use of intelligence to support investigations
. The force is sometimes slow to locate or arrest re-offenders
. A high number of offenders are arrested using European arrest warrants
. The force is effective at arresting and bringing to justice high-risk domestic abuse and rape offenders
. Officers and staff take proactive steps to uncover ‘hidden harm’, such as vulnerable people being trafficked or subjected to forced labour
. Officers and staff in the control room have a good understanding of the importance of taking immediate action where necessary to protect those with mental health conditions
. There is a shortfall of 45 qualified detectives and high workloads could compromise the ability of specialist teams to “conduct high-quality investigations and provide tailored support to victims”
. The force is good at managing sex offenders but neighbourhood officers had little knowledge of the sex offenders resident in the area they police.
DCC Baldwin said the force fully accepted the report but referenced previous inspections which rated the constabulary as ‘good’ for efficiency and legitimacy.
Asked if victims of crime can have confidence in reporting incidents to the police, he replied: “We have some of the highest victim satisfaction rates in the country.
“People can have confidence in us. That said, there is room to improve and that’s what we always seek to do.”
Asked about inspectors highlighting serious concerns with two investigations they looked at, he said: “They flagged those particular investigations up immediately. The supervisor put remedial action in.”
The extra 105 officers coming into the force are from a new policing structure - which will see a reduction in PCSOs - and are half funded from a rise in council tax.
With that recruitment now ongoing, DCC Baldwin said: “By the time the next inspection comes round we should be even better. We are aiming for ‘outstanding’ but we want to at least be ‘good’.”
Cambridgeshire police has less recorded crime per person than the England and Wales average, but the force saw a 24 per cent rise in recorded crime in the 12 months up to June, compared to a 14 per cent rise in England and Wales.
Earlier this month the PT reported how the force receives less funding per person than most other forces across the country.
Mr Ablewhite said “Last summer we were talking about being overstretched and police not being able to respond to the demand.
“The problem is we have one of the fastest growing counties in the UK and the police force is not growing in the same way. And we’ve got police spending more time dealing with non crime-related issues like mental health crises and road traffic collisions, rather than at the heart of criminal activity which is where people expect them.”
Mr Ablewhite spoke highly of Superintendent Andy Gipp who is in charge of police in Peterborough and Fenland and predicted an improved inspection for the force next year.
Asked if Cambridgeshire Constabulary will be ranked ‘good’ when it is next inspected, he replied: “Absolutely. I think when they regrade us I can’t see any reason why we would not be.”