Recording of Kent Crime Data and Statistics
- Meeting of Crime and Disorder (Overview and Scrutiny) Committee, Wednesday 21 February 2018 7.00 pm (Item 24.)
To receive a presentation from a Kent Police representative.
Members received a presentation from Chief Inspector Andy Gadd, District Commander for Dartford and Gravesham, Kent Police which addressed the recent uptrend in Dartford’s recorded crime levels.
The District Commander (DC) drew on the contents of a tabled document presented to Members in confidence as compiled by Kent Police’s Analytical Team, based on core figures for identified crime categories compiled by the Force’s Data Audit Team in the preceding 12 month period January 2016 to January 2017.
The DC summarised the key crime categories for Members, to give those figures the relevant context and background; given their impact on the Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Partnership’s 2017 Strategic Assessment document; to be considered by Members subsequently in the agenda proceedings [Item 10 - Min No. 26 refers]:
· ‘Last 3 Years Crime Data Comparison by [Kent] District’
The DC advised that whilst Dartford was at the top of the comparative table of Kent Districts, the Borough had registered the lowest percentage increase in recorded crime in the County during the last 12 month period [23.3%].
· ‘Dartford Specific Data over the past 12 Months’
(i) ‘Burglary Dwelling’: previously this category had only recorded crime committed on occupied dwellings to address the important factor of ‘impact on privacy’ suffered by victims of such crimes. Now under the revised Home Office Crime Counting rules the category included burglary of unoccupied buildings e.g. garden sheds significantly increasing this statistic;
(ii) ‘Public Order Offences’ – the large increase in this category - 177.2% equating to 535 recorded offences was a direct reflection of the revised and more rigid HO Crime Counting rules. The example was given of a reported instance of ‘loud shouting’ (previously treated as minor ASB) but now required to be recorded as a Public Order Offence under the revised Counting Rules, irrespective of whether perpetrators were actually found to be present when Police attended a scene.
· General Conclusions
(i) Recorded crime in Dartford had increased by 23.3% overall during the previous rolling year - Jan. 2016 to Jan. 2017;
(ii) Dartford’s % increase was the lowest in Kent in the period under review;
(iii) All Kent Districts had experienced higher % increases in recorded crime in the same period [Jan. 2016 to Jan. 2017];
(iv) Kent Police attributed the significant increase in recorded crime across all Kent Districts, to the revised and more rigid Home Office Counting Rules;
(v) Dartford’s increase in recorded crime, whilst the lowest across Kent Districts, had still had an impact on the 2017 Strategic Assessment for Dartford & Gravesham CSP in terms of target setting and the deployment of resources for 2018;
(vi) VAP (Violence against the Person) and Sexual Offences had seen the largest increases in Dartford, with multiple historic offences being recorded under the revised Counting Rules when a victim suffered further assaults, thereby impacting crime figures.
(i) The major factor in the increase in Dartford’s [and Kent’s] crime statistics was the recording of multiple crimes linked to a single incident. These multiple recordings were required under the revised Crime Counting rules to obtain a better reflection of the extent of offences committed against a victim, which, in turn, enabled the appropriate assessment to be made of any safeguarding requirements for both victims and witnesses of crime. Multiple recording of crime also enabled Forces to develop better investigative opportunities to identify and prosecute offenders;
(ii) In addition to Kent Police, HMIC had audited 20 other Forces in the current round of inspections to assess Crime Data Integrity - i.e. how Forces recorded crime against the revised HO Crime Counting Rules. Ten of the 21 Forces assessed (including Kent) had been graded ‘Inadequate’ by HMIC. Others had been able to take on board the learning coming out of the early inspections, such as of Kent;
(iii) Every Force in the UK had seen an increase in overall recorded crime in the previous 12 months on average by some 15%. In the same period Kent had recorded an average increase of 27% across all Districts of the County.
(iv) Following the HMIC inspection of Kent Police in early 2017 the Force’s recording of crime had risen and was now assessed as between 97-98% accurate. Kent Police were applying the changes identified in the HMIC inspection consistently, and in line with the revised HO Crime Counting rules. As the new working practices became embedded, crime data and statistics for Kent should level off and become more consistent year on year. This would provide a more accurate base going forward to assess performance particularly in the context of the annual Strategic Assessment exercise.
· Why & Key Messages
(i) The function of HMIC was rightly designed to ensure Police Forces were transparent and victim focussed in their work;
(ii) The revised Home Office Crime Counting rules dictated rigid application in the drive to ensure that each criminal offence was captured ethically and Kent Police and all other Forces had to adapt their processes to accommodate this key objective;
(iii) Following the 2017 HMIC inspection, it was now acknowledged that Kent Police may actually be over-recording offences, as the new working practices dictated by HMIC to meet the revised Crime Counting rules became embedded and Kent Police ensured that their processes were victim led and focussed.
· Specific Crime Types – Violence
(i) Another significant area of increased crime recording under the revised Rules was around ‘Violence without Injury’ whichin Dartford’s case, had shown an increase of 50.9% over the last 12 month period;
(ii) A significant change under the revised Rules dictated that if a member of the public was in fear of being assaulted, but no assault was actually made, a crime of ‘Common Assault’ was likely to be entered based on the persons ‘fear’;
(iii) Similarly, if a victim contacted the Police [over a current incident] and mentioned a previous incident of assault (a common occurrence) an additional crime now had to be inputted resulting in a further uplift of reported crime in the category;
(iv) A further example of ‘double counting’ was when a victim was harassed by a suspect over time, but on one occasion the suspect also damaged property [owned by the victim] this now constituted two separate offences (Harassment and Criminal Damage) when formerly only a single Crime Report would have been raised.
· Specific Crime Types – Sexual Offences
(i) Domestic Abuse cases have seen the most significant increase in reported sexual offences. The ‘victim led and focussed’ process for addressing this specific crime category dictated that each victim was assessed by a supervisor, employing the “DASH” protocol of 27 key-point questions to ensure all victims were appropriately safeguarded;
(ii) Employing the “DASH” protocol to cases of Domestic Abuse had also resulted in an uplift of reported crime in the category through the required reporting under the revised Rules of historical incidents of abuse, including any incidents of unwanted intimacy suffered by a victim from a partner, which was now automatically recorded as a rape;
(iii) Similarly, unsubstantiated 3rd Party reporting by a friend or colleague of the abuse of an alleged victim must now be recorded. In previous years such 3rd Party reporting was not recorded unless/until confirmed by the alleged victim;
(iv) A further example of ‘double recording’ was the revised requirement that the rape of a single victim by 2 different offenders be recorded as 2 separate crimes rather than 1 crime with two offenders as previously.
· Specific Crimes Types – Public Order Offences
(i) In former years abusive telephone calls without threats were treated by the Police as “Malicious Communications”, not a recordable offence, and no crime report was created. Under the revised Rules “Malicious Communications” had to be recorded as a crime;
(ii) Similarly, in the past if Police were called to a public disturbance but
no persons made any criminal allegations, no crime was recorded. Under the revised Rules if information suggested that any person had been intimidated by an event/disturbance, a crime had to be recorded.
· Mental Health Issues – Example
(i) A male with Alzheimer’s Disease routinely rides his bike close to his home over a number of years without incident or concern;
(ii) One day he returns home without his bike which is unusual, he cannot remembered what happened to his bike, but is uninjured;
(iii) Police attend the scene, search the area but cannot find the bike. Formerly, on the balance of probabilities, given the man’s health condition, it would have been assumed that the bike had been misplaced by the owner;
(iv) Now, under the revised Rules such an occurrence had to be recorded as ‘theft from a vulnerable adult’ in line with the ethos of victim led and focused policing.
The District Commander concluded his presentation of the material provided by Kent Police’s Analytical and Data Audit Team by underlining the need for all Forces to be transparent and victim focussed in their procedures. The new Home Office Crime Counting rules had created extra work for Forces and would continue to do so, but transparency and public safety were paramount for Kent Police and all Forces nation-wide.
The CSU Inspector underlined, in this respect, the value of good two-way dialogue between Police and Public; particularly in the more rural Parish areas of Dartford, where Kent Police’s profile was perceived as less visible.
In response to a variety of questions from Members the District Commander and the CSU Inspector confirmed the following points:
· HMIC was due to conduct a follow-up review of Kent Police’s crime recording procedures and continued compliance with the revised Home Office Crime Counting rules in September 2018;
· Kent Police had attained a high standard for recording crime in the past following a previous HMIC inspection in 2012/13 – the so-called ‘Kent Test’ coined and applied subsequently by HMIC in their inspections of all other Forces nationally. Given this previous acknowledged attainment for recording crime Kent Police were confident of returning to those former high standards for recording crime under the revised HO Counting Rules;
· Kent’s Chief Constable was still considering what proportion of the 200 extra police officers and 80 civilian staff to be recruited under the Police & Crime Commissioner’s budget proposals would be devoted to ‘front-line’ duties and what proportion would be of necessity, devoted to ‘investigative’ duties [Min. No. 23 refers];
· New innovative and smarter ways of working would be required by Kent Police, despite the proposed increase in Officer [and Civilian cadre] numbers. One proposal was for a Police Task Force to move around Kent (including Dartford) to tackle ‘spikes’ in specific criminal activity;
· Given the number of existing crime categories and the recent revisions to the Home Office Crime Counting rules; it was thought unlikely that Government would create further sub-categories of crime to help Police Forces identify re-current or new crime themes and devote resources accordingly. However, the crime data recorded by individual Kent Police Districts was subjected to detailed examination and analysis by Kent Police’s Data Audit and Analytical Teams, prior to publication of crime statistics for any given period;
· Burglary which involved the assault of the victim was recorded as 1 crime of burglary or aggravated burglary if a weapon was used by the offender. However, if a neighbour who went to a victim’s assistance was also assaulted, the Police now had to record 2 separate crimes.
A Member expressed his sense of frustration over the ‘moving goalposts’ created by the revisions to the Home Office Crime Counting Rules, and the difficulties Councillors now faced to meaningfully scrutinise crime figures and assess performance on a comparative basis year on year. He suggested that the provision of a little more information/background for selected crime categories e.g. the number of victims of sexual offences - would help guide and influence the better provision of Police resources on a local basis.
The District Commander advised Members that meeting the requirements of the revised Home Office Crime Counting Rules had been a challenge for Forces and would continue to be. He held regular meetings with both his CSU Inspectors [Dartford and Gravesham] to identify local ‘spikes’ in crime to inform and develop conversations within the CSUs and with the public.
The CSU Inspector added that, all calls received by Dartford CSU were reviewed on a daily basis by the Police Team and discussed with the District Commander as necessary to maximise the effective deployment of CSU resources and safeguard the most vulnerable in the Borough.
In response to a specific question, the CSU Inspector identified the high rate of burglaries in parts of Dartford as a key area of current criminal activity rather than Gangs, who tended not to settle in Dartford but operate out of London given the close proximity. Dartford CSU was working with the Met and Bexley Police Forces to tackle burglaries and other crime with a suspected cross-border element. Kent Police also continued to co-operate with the Met and Essex Forces to tackle burglary rings operating across all three jurisdictions.
Other general areas of Police operation included the use of a Vulnerability Panel to highlight cases where mental health was a contributing factor to crime, including the assessment of recidivist criminals. Theft of and from Motor Vehicles in the period under review had fallen, and moped crime continued at a nuisance rather than significant level in the Borough.
The Chairman thanked the District Commander and the CSU Inspector for their presentation regarding the Borough’s recorded uptrend in Crime Levels under the new Home Office Crime Counting Rules in the previous rolling 12 month period January 2016 to January 2017, and their constructive responses to Members questions and expressions of concern.