Police & Crime Commissioner comments
I welcome the findings of this spotlight report that reflect real areas of concern for the public. The following sections set out how the Force are addressing the report’s recommendations, and I will monitor progress through my Office’s existing oversight mechanisms.
I have requested the Chief Constable’s view on the report, and he has stated:
I welcome the HMICFRS PEEL spotlight report ‘The police response to burglary, robbery and other acquisitive crime: Finding time for crime’ which was published in August 2022.
The report makes two recommendations for forces to consider by March 2023 which are detailed below along with commentary on Surrey’s current position and further work that is planned.
Progress against these two recommendations will be monitored through our existing governance structures with strategic leads overseeing their implementation.
By March 2023, forces should make sure their crime scene management practices adhere to the authorised professional practice on managing investigation for SAC or provide a rationale for deviating from it.
They should also include:
- Giving victims timely and appropriate advice during their initial call: and
- Applying a risk assessment process such as THRIVE, clearly recording it, and flagging those re-victimised for further support
- All contacts (999, 101 and online) that come through to Surrey Police should always be subject to a THRIVE assessment by the Contact Centre Agent. The THRIVE assessment is a critical part of the contact management process. It ensures that the correct information is recorded to inform an ongoing risk assessment and helps determine the most appropriate response to assist the person making contact. Guidance given to all staff working within Surrey Contact and Deployment stipulates that, with exception of Grade 1 incidents (due to their emergency nature requiring an immediate deployment), no incident will be closed if a THRIVE assessment has not been completed. Whilst in Surrey’s HMICFRS PEEL 2021/22 inspection the Force was graded as “adequate” for Responding to the Public, with an area for improvement (AFI) given in respect of non-emergency call handling performance, the Force was praised for its use of THRIVE commenting, “call handlers consider threat, risk and harm to those involved and prioritise incidents accordingly”.
- Repeat victims can be identified through dedicated questions sets available to Contact Centre Agents who will ask the caller if they are reporting a repeat incident or crime. As well as asking the caller directly, additional checks can also be carried out on the Force’s command and control system (ICAD) and crime recording system (NICHE) to try and identify if the caller is a repeat victim, or if the crime has occurred at a repeat location. It was highlighted in during the Force’s HMICFRS PEEL inspection that “the victim’s vulnerability is assessed using a structured process” however, the inspection team also found that the Force didn’t always identify repeat victims thereby not always taking the victim’s history into account when making deployment decisions.
- The Force therefore acknowledges that there is a need to improve compliance in these areas and it is a key priority for the dedicated Contact Quality Control Team (QCT) who review around 260 contacts each month, checking for compliance in a number of areas including the application of THRIVE and the identification of repeat victims. Where compliance issues are evident, for either individuals or teams, they are addressed by the Contact Centre Performance Managers through further training and supervisor briefings. Enhanced QCT reviewing is carried out for all new staff members or those staff who have been identified as requiring further support.
- In respect of providing advice to victims on crime prevention and preservation of evidence, Contact Centre Agents are given an in-depth induction course when they start with the Force, which includes training on forensics – an input which has recently been refreshed. Additional training sessions take place at least twice a year as part of Contact Centre Agents’ continuous professional development along with additional briefing material being circulated whenever there is a change to guidance or policy. The most recent briefing note covering Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) deployments and burglary was circulated in August this year. To ensure that all material is easily accessible for Contact Centre staff it is upload into a dedicated SharePoint site with work ongoing to ensure that that content remains relevant and up to date – a process which is owned by the Forensic Operations Team.
- The Force has also produced several videos including one on crime scene evidence preservation which are sent to victims, via a link, at the point of reporting a crime (e.g. a burglary), to help them preserve evidence until a police officer/CSI arrives. Contact Centre Agents giving victims advice on crime prevention and how to preserve evidence was noted in the Force 2021/22 PEEL inspection report.
Crime scene investigation
- Over the past 2 years a significant amount of work has been undertaken in Force regarding Crime Scene Management and SAC. CSI deployment has been reviewed and a documented SLA introduced which outlines deployment practice for CSIs utilising the THRIVE assessment process. This is complemented by a robust daily triage process undertaken by CSIs and senior CSIs to ensure that attendance is victim focussed, proportionate and effective. As an example, all reports of residential burglaries are sent for triage and attendance and CSIs also routinely attend incidents (regardless of THRIVE) where blood has been left at a scene.
- Senior CSI’s and the Contact Management team work closely together to ensure that any learning is shared and used to inform future training and a daily process is in place whereby a senior CSI will review all previous 24 hours burglary and vehicle crime reports for any missed opportunities thereby enabling early feedback.
- Surrey Police has recruited a Forensic Learning and Development Lead to support training across the Force with a number of videos, Apps and digital learning materials produced which are available on officers’ mobile data terminals and on the Force intranet. This has helped to ensure that officers and staff deployed to crime scenes are able to easily access relevant information on crime scene management and the preservation of evidence.
- However, despite the changes outlined above, it should also be noted that CSIs attend a smaller number of crimes and incidents than they have done previously. Whilst some of this is rightly due to force investigative strategies and THRIVE (so that they are deployed where there is the greatest likelihood of forensic capture), the advent of stricter regulation, additional administration and recording requirements has, in some cases, doubled scene examination times for volume crime. By way of example, in 2017 the average time taken to examine the scene of a residential burglary was 1.5 hours. This has now risen to 3 hours. Requests for CSI scene attendance are not yet back to pre-pandemic levels (due to a significant reduction in recorded burglaries since March 2020) therefore turnaround times and SLAs for this crime type continue to be met. However, should this rise and, with the requirement to meet accreditation standards, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that an additional 10 CSIs would be needed (an uplift of 50%) to maintain service levels.
By March 2023, all forces should ensure SAC investigation are subject to effective supervision and direction. This should focus on:
- Making sure supervisors have the capability and capacity to meaningfully supervise investigations;
- Making sure investigation meet the necessary standard and achieve suitable outcomes that consider the voice or opinion of victims;
- Applying investigative outcome codes appropriately; and
- Complying with the Victims’ Code and recording evidence of compliance
Capability and capacity
- In the recent HMICFRS 2021/22 PEEL inspection the Force was assessed as ‘good’ at investigating crime with the inspection team commenting that investigations were carried out in a timely fashion and that they were “well supervised.” That said, the Force is not complacent and strives to continually improve the quality of its investigations and outcomes in order to ensure that there are sufficient staff to investigate and that they have the relevant skills to do so. This is overseen through an Investigative Capacity and Capability Gold Group jointly chaired by the two ACCs Local Policing and Specialist Crime and attended by all Divisional Commanders, Department Heads, People Services and L&PD.
- In November 2021 divisionally based Neighbourhood Policing Investigation Teams (NPIT) were introduced, staffed with Constables, Investigating Officers and Sergeants, to deal with suspects who are in custody for volume/PIP1 level offences taking on the investigation and completing any related case files. The teams were implemented to improve the investigative capacity and capability of NPT and are rapidly becoming centres for excellence in the realm of effective investigation and case file building. NPITs, which are yet to reach full establishment, will be used as coaching environments for new officers along with existing investigators and supervisors via rotational attachments.
- In the past 6 months dedicated burglary teams have been established on each division in order to improve outcomes for residential burglary offences. In addition to investigating burglary series and dealing with burglary suspects who are arrested, the team also provides guidance and support to other investigators. The team Sergeant ensures all such investigations have appropriate initial investigative strategies and has responsibility for finalising all burglary cases, ensuring a consistency of approach.
- The teams have contributed to a notable improvement in the solved outcome rate for this crime type with Rolling Year to Date (RYTD) performance (as at 26/9/2022) shown as 7.3%, compared with 4.3% over the same period the previous year. When looking at Financial Year to Date (FYTD) data this performance improvement is even more significant with the solved outcome rate for residential burglary (between 1/4/2022 and 26/9/2022) sitting at 12.4% compared with performance of 4.6% the previous year. This is a significant improvement and equates to 84 more burglaries solved. As the burglary solved rate continues to increase, recorded offences continue to decrease with FYTD data showing a 5.5% reduction in residential burglaries compared with the same period the previous year – that’s 65 fewer offences (and victims). In terms of where Surrey currently sits nationally, latest ONS* data (March 2022) shows that for residential burglary Surrey Police ranks 20th with 5.85 offences recorded per 1000 households (which is expected to show an improvement when the next data set is released). By comparison the force with the highest levels of residential burglary and ranked 42nd (City of London is excluded from the data), shows 14.9 recorded offences per 1000 households.
- Overall, for total recorded crime, Surrey remains the 4th safest county with 59.3 offences recorded per 1000 population and for offences of personal robbery we are ranked 6th safest county in the country.
Investigation Standards, outcomes and voice of the victim
- Based on best practice in other forces, the Force launched Operation Falcon in late 2021 which is a programme to improve the standard of investigations across the Force and is led by a Detective Superintendent reporting to the Head of Crime. A problem-solving approach has been taken to properly understand where focus is needed which includes all officers at Chief Inspector rank and above completing monthly crime health check reviews to form an evidence base for the work needed and to ensure universal leadership buy-in. These checks focus on the quality of the investigation undertaken, the level of supervision applied, evidence captured from victims and witnesses and whether the victim supported the investigation or not. As well as monthly crime reviews, feedback from the CPS and case file performance data has been incorporated into the programme of work. Operation Falcon’s key areas of focus include investigation training (initial and continuous professional development), the supervision of crime and culture (investigative mindset).
- At the finalisation of an investigation the outcome is subject to quality assurance at a local supervision level and then subsequently by the Force Occurrence Management Unit (OMU). This ensures there is scrutiny of the appropriateness of the action taken which is particularly relevant to out of court disposals which are subject to their own clear criteria. [Surrey is one of the highest users of out-of-court disposals (OoCDs) nationally through a two-tier framework of issuing ‘conditional cautions’ and ‘community resolutions and the success of the Force Checkpoint criminal justice diversion programme was highlighted in the local PEEL inspection report.
- Alongside the role of the OMU the Force Crime Registrar’s Audit and Review team carry out regular reviews and `deep dives’ of crime investigations to ensure Force compliance with National Crime Recording Standards and Home Office Counting Rules. Reports which detail findings and associated recommendations are presented each month at the Force Strategic Crime and Incident Recording Group meeting (SCIRG) which is chaired by the DCC so that there is oversight of performance and progress against actions. In respect of OoCDs, these are independently reviewed by an OoCD Scrutiny Panel.
- All contact with victims throughout an investigation are recorded on Niche via a “victim contract” with compliance against the Victim’s Code assessed through monthly reviews undertaken by the Force Victim Care Co-ordinator within the Victim and Witness Care Unit. The performance data produced ensures that there is focus on both team and individual level and these reports form part of monthly divisional performance meetings.
- The service victims receive from Surrey Police was assessed during the PEEL inspection through a review of 130 case files and OoCDs. The inspection team found that “the force makes sure that investigations are allocated to appropriate staff with suitable levels of experience, and it informs victims promptly if their crime won’t be investigated further.” They also commented that the “force finalises reports of crime appropriately by considering the type of offence, the victim’s wishes and the offender’s background”. What the inspection did highlight, however, was that where a suspect has been identified but the victim doesn’t support or withdraws support for police action, the force did not record the victim’s decision. This is an area that needs to improve and will be addressed through training.
- All operational staff are required to complete a mandatory Victim’s Code NCALT e-learning package with compliance monitored monthly. Work is currently underway to enhance the current ‘Victim Care’ training provision (taking on the feedback from the PEEL inspection) by including training modules on both the Victim Personal Statement and victim withdrawal. This is intended for all investigators and will supplement inputs already provided by subject matter experts from the Surrey Police Victim and Witness Care Unit. To date all Domestic Abuse Teams have received this input and further sessions are planned for Child Abuse Teams and NPT.