HomeNewsAvon and Somerset Police told to improve crime investigations

Avon and Somerset Police told to improve crime investigations

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Avon and Somerset Police has been told it needs to improve the way it investigates and records crime.

A recent inspection also found failings in the way offenders are managed in the community and victims are safeguarded.

But inspectors praised the force for its “proactive” approach to tackling child exploitation issues.

Avon and Somerset Police said it was investing in people and “laying solid foundations” to improve performance “across the board”.

Recording and investigating crime

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) conducted its review over a 12-month period between 2021 and 2022.

It found the force recorded 91.4% of all reported crime, meaning 13,100 alleged offences went unlogged – 8,300 of which were violent and 420 were sexual.

Inspectors also warned a number of cases relating to adult and child protection had not been properly recorded, including offences of controlling and coercive behaviour and sexual assault.

It was a similar picture with reports of anti-social behaviour – a review of 28 calls found just 13 had been recorded.

Inspectors warned this could result in victims living in fear while being subjected to “long-term abuse and torment” by neighbours.

HMICFRS also found Avon and Somerset Police needed to be more proactive in securing entry into premises of people suspected of accessing indecent images of children.

Emergency calls

While the force answered both emergency and non-emergency calls quickly, call handlers sometimes failed to identify repeat victims, and those who were vulnerable.

In 14 out of 65 cases reviewed, the caller’s vulnerability was not gauged using a structured risk assessment, and in the remainder the assessment varied in form and quality.

The inspectorate warned this could affect how a call is prioritised, and also result in delays to the caller receiving safeguarding advice.

Responding to the public

HMICFRS praised the force for keeping victims updated on the progress of investigations.

But it warned that in a review of cases where the victim had withdrawn their support for police action, half had no clear record confirming their decision.

The inspectorate said this risked the victim’s wishes not being “fully represented or considered” before a case was closed.

It also found there was a backlog of rape cases waiting to be allocated an investigator, meaning opportunities to gather evidence could be lost.

Elsewhere, there were failures to effectively monitor registered sex offenders in the community.

There were 217 sex offenders overdue a visit from an offender manager at the time of the inspection, with one case several months overdue.

‘Outstanding’

The force was rated ‘outstanding’ in several areas, including its treatment of the public and its strategies for engaging with various communities.

HMICFRS also praised Avon and Somerset Police’s work to tackle issues such as knife crime, child sexual exploitation and county lines drug dealing.

Its strategies included going into schools to identify at-risk individuals, and offering training to students on keeping themselves safe.

Inspectors also found the force was working on its understanding of how tactics such as stop and search disproportionately affect minority communities.

It now has an IT system preventing stop and search records being submitted unless then ethnicity of the person stopped is properly recorded.

‘Solid foundations’

Commenting on the report, Chief Constable Sarah Crew said the force was investing in people and had worked hard “to lay solid foundations on which we can improve our performance across the board”.

She said the force knew there was more to do, adding: “We need to make sure we are razor sharp in our pursuit and focus on offenders, while continuing to prioritise the needs of victims.”

Ms Crew added that non-emergency calls were putting a strain on resources.

“In the last 12 months, we’ve taken more than 385,000 calls for service, with under a third of these relating to crime or anti-social behaviour,” she said.

“The rest are issues which go beyond the policing sphere, including incidents involving people in mental health crisis.”

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