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Norfolk and Suffolk rapped over crime recording procedures

Two police forces have been ordered to improve their crime recording by HMICFRS

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has warned Norfolk and Suffolk that they must make further improvements to the way they record crimes.

Suffolk Constabulary and Norfolk Constabulary were both rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ for failing to record reports within 24 hours and other problems.

Norfolk Constabulary had been told to overhaul its processes after it was inspected in 2014. The Inspectorate found in its re-inspection that although improvements have been made the force is still failing to record enough reported crime.

Suffolk Constabulary has also improved since its 2014 audit but some staff lacked understanding of recording rules.

The Inspectorate said the improvements were vital for both forces because it captures vital information that will enable the proper investigation of an incident and builds public confidence in the police service.

Accurate data on offending is critical to discovering repeat offenders and crime hotspots but it has also been an issue for forces that need to meet performance targets.

Recording details on crime is now a critical issue for forces as they tackle issues such as online fraud and are coming under pressure to improve the evidence that is produced in court.

The College of Policing issued guidance in November last year on best practice for obtaining initial accounts from victims and witnesses.

Norfolk has developed a crime data integrity plan and created an investigation team for incidents which do not require attendance at the crime scene. It also has effective processes for identifying and recording modern slavery offences.

But the force only records 87.5 per cent of all crimes reported to it, meaning that an estimated 8,700 reports a year go unrecorded. This was due to limited training and poor supervision.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said: “I am concerned about a lack of understanding amongst some officers and staff around the rules for recording crimes such as harassment, stalking and coercive and controlling behaviour.

“We rated its culture and values with regards to crime recording as ‘outstanding’. The leadership of the Chief Constable and his senior team has been very effective.”

Suffolk was rapped for failing to record reports within 24 hours. Violent crime is a particular concern, with an estimated 3,600 reports a year going unrecorded.

Zoë Billingham added: “It is disappointing that workforce understanding of recording rules – which we identified as a problem back in 2014 – has not been comprehensively addressed.

“The force needs to make sure all officers and staff understand how to properly record crime reports. It needs to replicate the pockets of good practice we have highlighted across all areas of crime recording, particularly violent crime.”

Suffolk’s T/ACC, David Cutler, said the force was already acting on the findings: "We are encouraged the report accepts the constabulary has made a concerted effort to record crime more accurately since the last inspection in 2014, and that officers and staff put victims at the heart of their crime-recording decisions.

He added: "Inspectors also found Suffolk has one of the best sexual offence recording rates in the country. Although crime recording rules can be complex, we are determined to swiftly address the issues raised. A significant programme of work began in this area before the inspection and it will continue as we strive for the required improvement."

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