Crime Recording – The Angry Perspective

In February 2013, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent (the Commissioner) commissioned Her Majesty‟s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to conduct an inspection “to determine whether the people of Kent can have confidence in Kent Police’s crime figures.  This followed an internal review by Kent Police focusing on crime detections and performance culture.
To answer this question, HMIC reviewed the force‟s practices at every stage of the crime-recording process, from the point at which a member of the public calls the police, to the final resolution (or „disposal‟) of the crime (for instance, through a caution or penalty notice for disorder).

The above is a direct lift from the Executive Summary of the HMIC Report entitled

Crime Recording in Kent

A report commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent

My first question would be “What constitutes an Inspection?”  Was this a far-reaching Review, or an Audit?

My second question would be “Was it Necessary?” Followed rapidly by “Did it provide good Value for Money?”

My final question would likely be”Why on earth did they not do this in-house for next to no money at all?” If Ms Barnes was worried about independence, transparency and credibility then she could have requested a Review or Audit from another Force (sorry, Service).

I must remind you, my reader, that it is almost 11 years since I retired from the Metrolopitan Police Farce (sorry, Service) only to be swallowed up by the MPA for 3 years, so my knowledge of current procedures ranges from rusty to non-existent, so please forgive me.

When I last served on Borough one of the tasks we were given each month was an Ethical Audit of CRIS, the Met’s Crime Reporting and Information System.  At first I simply regarded this as just one more chore to be carried out. A program had been written by some geeky Sergeant at Stoke Newington, floppy discs (remember them?) were circulated containing a program to be run on the Crime Analyst’s desktop and the results were written direct to the same floppy disc which was subsequently returned to the same geeky Sergeant and forgotten about till next month.  Until the DCI appeared one day asking questions about some issues highlighted by the audit.  Yes, he had been Memo’ed!!

Sitting down with him to answer the points in his ‘Memo’ it became clear what this program that we had to run actually did.  It interrogated the CRIS system between dates and highlighted crimes such as;

  • Classified Common Assault with victim suffering Serious Injury
  • Classified Criminal Damage to a building with a Point of Entry recorded
  • Classified as Theft (Person) with victim suffering use of Force
  • Crimes classified No Crime and then reclassified as a Crime after the end of the month

I could go on, I’m sure you get the point.

My point is this, I have never been in favour of manipulating the stats, good, bad or indifferent they should be reported accurately.  Manipulation of the figures, or indeed, genuine human error,  soon came to light and was highlighted to the DCI in a ‘Memo;’.  To do this took about an hour or 2 per month, not exactly time consuming or ‘resource intensive‘.

I’m not aware of any Force (Service) that still records crimes on paper and issues their staff with the prized ‘binder winder’ any more, so any computer system can be interrogated easily and electronically by another program, you just have to get someone to design and write it.

When I worked for the MPA I was employed as a Forensic Auditor within the Internal Audit Directorate. Sounds posher than it was.  Forensic Auditors made up about a quarter of Internal Audit, with the rest being formed of Systems Auditors and Analysts.  There wasn’t very much that happened within a Police Force (sorry, Service) that we couldn’t audit/investigate. CRIS would have been a breeze.

Maybe other Forces don’t have the luxury of having a dedicated Internal Audit department and they (ouch) Outsource that function as and when they require it (and they will require it eventually) and it’s an expensive function to outsource.  Maybe the PCCs should consider pooling their resources and having Internal Auditors to service 3 or so adjoining Forces.   Forensic Auditors are indeed a luxury but our office ALWAYS saved or recovered more money than we cost every year. We were no strangers to the High Court seeking recovery of monies fraudulently claimed from the Met (not allegedly, we also obtained criminal convictions first).

Systems and Forensic Auditors working together and their analysts could keep on top of any system such as Crime Recording, and many more, cheaply, efficiently and within the control of the host Force, no commissioning of HMIC to carry out an ‘Inspection’. After all, an Inspection can simply mean ‘have a quick look at’.

Head honcho auditors then write annual reports on the systems they have audited and the Force and Public can both have a measurable degree of confidence that things are either Ticketyboo, or steps are in place to remedy the problems which have been highlighted.

With a system such as this across England and Wales, surely the Public at large can once again have confidence in the crime figures that are released and form their own, reasonable, impressions about the state of criminal activity in this country? It would also be quite helpful if the Home Office didn’t keep redefining the Counting Rules according to who is in power and what their agenda is.

Here endeth the Angry Perspective

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