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Gloucestershire Constabulary are "inadequate" in recording crime data, says damning report

Gloucestershire's police force has been graded "inadequate" for the way in records crime data, in a damning official report.

The report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services in to Gloucestershire Constabulary said that the force is "too often failing vulnerable victims of crime."

A series of damning statistics in the Crime Data Integrity Inspection show that nearly 8,000 crimes per year an equivalent of 18.4 per cent are not being recorded by the force.

More damning is the fact that only 69.2 per cent of violent crimes were recorded - figures from which HMICFRS concluded that 4,200 reports go unrecorded.

Further criticism is levelled, saying "the force does not always record crimes that occur during domestic abuse incidents."

It adds that some force staff have received no crime-recording training and that "delays in recording reported crimes led to delays in referring victims to Victim Support.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said: "The force has demonstrated strong performance in other areas of policing, but must make immediate improvements at almost every stage of the crime recording process, otherwise victims will continue to be let down.

"Even when it has enough information from which to record a crime following an initial call, there are unnecessary and unacceptable delays.

"Call handlers obtain the information they need from victims in an empathetic manner and document it on the incident log.

"But the force doesn't make enough use of it within subsequent crime-recording decisions.

"Too often this means it doesn't record reported crimes at all. And on occasion this can lead to victims disengaging.

"However, it is important to acknowledge that our inspection did reveal some areas of good practice.

The force has improved its recording of modern slavery offences. We were also impressed with the force's Initial Investigations Team, which should provide a firm platform for improving the service to victims of crime.

"We hope that this report will act as a catalyst for improvement in how the force records crime.

The inspectorate made a series of areas for improvement that have been recommended for immediate implementation.

These include improvements to the way it records diversity information from victims and a review into how it uses that information to inform compliance with its equality duty.

A recommendation to put in place arrangements to improve the process of informing victims when their recorded crime has been cancelled is also included.

The force has also been asked to develop and implement an effective feedback process for all officers and staff involved in making crime-recording decisions.

Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl said, "It's disappointing and I have made my feelings known to the Constabulary as I warned months ago it was failing in this area and had to improve.

"To be fair, the Constabulary was rated 'good' everywhere else when the HMICFRS carried out its wider inspection recently; and manpower has certainly had an impact. That's why I supported its case for putting up the council tax.

"But that's no excuse. Crime recording is important to the service provided to victims of crime and plays an important role in intelligence gathering and has to be taken more seriously".

Gloucestershire Constabulary chief constable Rod Hansen responded to the report by saying the force have reviewed all the incidents in the report.

In a lengthy reply, he also confirmed that a review had been commissioned into how the force had got into the position it had and that a full plan to address the shortcomings had been made.

Full response from Gloucestershire Constabulary

Chief Constable Hansen said: "We welcome the scrutiny of the report from the HMICFRS and like many other forces that received a similar grade or required improvement following their first inspection, are disappointed with the findings.

"We would like to reassure people that we have reviewed all the incidents raised in the report and can say that this is predominately a recording failure not a service failure.

"That means in many of the cases identified by the HMICFRS a good level of service was given to a victim, even though we didn't create a crime report for it.

"It's also important to explain that when you make contact with Gloucestershire Constabulary we always record what you tell us, we assess every call and deploy when you need us.

"Where we have let ourselves down is that we have not always complied with national recording standards by making a separate crime record where appropriate.

"This is not the same as letting down a victim or failing to safeguard them.

"In terms of context only about 24% of all calls for service to us relate to crime - the rest are other important matters like collisions, missing persons and mental health crisis incidents, where someone's safety can be in jeopardy.

"Equally, some reports come to us which are not police specific so need rerouting to another agency to respond to - but that still takes time.

"The national rules around which incidents must be recorded as crimes run to over 100 pages and equipping a busy workforce to be compliant in every aspect is challenging.

"It took 12 inspectors 14 days to establish how we were doing as a relatively small Constabulary, which gives some indication of the complexity of it.

"In 2014, I had four members of staff helping to ensure crime recording was at a high standard (acknowledged by the HMIC at the time) and due to austerity and a need to bolster the frontline we had to reduce that to one person - part-time, trying to audit the whole force.

"In May 2019, the Constabulary was graded "good" across the board by HMICFRS including its ability to investigate, tackle vulnerability and act in an ethical and legitimate way.

"We have tried hard to balance our investments and focussed on investigation and frontline services. A consequence has been that we have underperformed in this area. This has been compounded by some technological shortcomings that cost a great deal of money to resolve.

"However, I take responsibility for the Constabulary`s need to improve in this area.

"I have commissioned a review to find out how we got into this position and what we can learn from that.

"A full plan to address these shortcomings has been prepared and much has already been implemented, including additional supervisors being put in post, specialist training for front line staff starting next week and a staff member in our public protection bureau designated to recording third party reports of crime. We have also started the recruitment process for a deputy Force Crime Registrar.

"In their PEEL report in May, HMICFRS praised our officers for understanding the importance of vulnerability and I am pleased to say that there were some positive findings by the Inspectorate in this report, including how we deal with victims during first contact and our work to record modern slavery offences.

"There has been a lack of understanding of the importance of crime recording but I want to stress we are fully committed to protecting the most vulnerable people in our communities and keeping everyone safe. We will investigate crimes and bring those who commit them to justice to the best of our ability.

"Our officers and staff understand the needs of the communities they serve and many go above and beyond the call of duty in sometimes very difficult circumstances. I am proud of them and the work they do, and I know that they will remain committed as we move forward."

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