Thames Valley praised for understanding of communities but told to do more to ensure consistency of neighbourhood police presence

Thames Valley Police has been rated as good in terms of how ‘effective’, ‘efficient’ and ‘legitimate’ the force is at keeping people safe and reducing crime, but some improvements have been called for in neighbourhood policing.

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Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) carried out its third assessment of Thames Valley Police in September and has today published its report.  In each of three categories, HMIC gave Thames Valley 3 out of 4 points, finding the force to be ‘good’ once again.

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Slightly more forces than last year were found to be providing a “largely good service” this year, which the inspectorate welcomed.  However, it flagged some “worrying practices in some police forces” – including downgrading the severity of calls, failing to pursue and apprehend suspects, and not retreiving evidence quickly enough from electronic devices.

It also highlighted that, nationally, local policing and crime prevention has “continued to deteriorate” – although it heaped praise on the force for its “good understanding of communities”, and use of Neighbourhood Action Groups and Have Your Say meetings to communicate effectively with local people.

It was less flattering, however, about access to information about the communities which was typically held by key individuals who were sometimes taken out of their communities to cover staff shortages elsewhere:

“In Thames Valley Police we found that neighbourhood team staff are deployed away from their core role periodically, although this does not happen routinely.

“In some areas concerns about a higher than average rate of staff being transferred in this way was identified through a survey of members of neighbourhood teams, in which around half of all respondents from neighbourhood teams indicated that they had performed duties away from this role at least once in the previous week”.

It said it was reassured to hear that a new operating model for neighbourhoods “will bring a greater certainty of a continued police presence in communities.”

Across Thames Valley, recorded crime was officially up 6.1% year on year, but down 21.3 on five years ago.  12.5% of crimes resulted in a charge or summons, compared with 12.1% nationall.  The “Victim Satisfaction Rate” was 87.5%, against 83.3% nationally.

The force’s work to understand the problems of homeless people and sex workers in particular was acknowledged as an area of improvement.

Commenting on the report Chief Constable Francis Habgood welcomed the report’s findings and said:

“Effective policing depends on our ability to work closely with other partner organisations. We are proud of our history of partnership working with other agencies and we continue to widen and deepen these relationships which are critical to our ability to protect the most vulnerable within our communities.”

Commenting on the report Anthony Stansfeld, Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley Police thanked staff for their hard work and committed to work to maintain standards:

“HMIC has rightly identified the Force’s strength in the way it supports victims of crime, protects vulnerable groups, manages ASB and tackles serious organised crime. While I will continue to work with the Chief Constable and other key partners to ensure we maintain these standards, we must all be mindful of the changing nature of criminality and the impact this has on our communities.”

Areas for Improvement

EFFECTIVENESS
  • The force should adopt a structured and consistent approach to problem-solving to enable it to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour more effectively.
  • The force should ensure that the capacity in the office-based research team is adequate, so that criminal investigations can be undertaken in an effective and timely manner.
  • The force should review its capacity to retrieve digital evidence from mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices to ensure that investigations are not delayed.
  • The force should ensure that it is fully compliant with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.
  • The force should consider widening its approach to integrated offender management to include a broader range of offenders. There should be clear measures of success which enable the force to evaluate how effectively it is protecting the public from prolific and harmful offenders.
  • The force should further develop its serious and organised crime local profiles in conjunction with partner organisations to enhance its understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime and inform joint work aimed at reducing this threat.
  • The force should engage routinely with partner agencies at a senior level to enhance intelligence sharing and promote an effective, multi-agency response to serious and organised crime.
  • The force should improve the awareness of organised crime groups among neighbourhood teams to ensure that they can reliably identify these groups, collect intelligence and disrupt their activity.

EFFICIENCY

 

  • Thames Valley Police should ensure its understanding of the demand for its services, and of the expectations of the public, are up to date by regularly reviewing its evidence base. These reviews should be conducted alongside local authorities, other emergency services and partner organisations, to ensure that the force takes the necessary steps to meet current and likely future demand, including hidden demand.

LEGITIMACY

 

  • The force should improve how it seeks feedback from the people it serves about their experiences (or perceptions) of how the police have treated them.
  • The force should improve how its workforce understands the issues identified from lessons learned.
  • The force should ensure that it has the capability and capacity to monitor all its computer systems to identify risks to the force’s integrity.
  • The force should improve how it identifies and understands its workforce’s wellbeing needs.

 

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