Police pledge after data inspection finds crime reports go unrecorded
Sarah Lucy brown
Suffolk police have promised improvements after inspectors found an estimated 5,300 reports of crime go unrecorded each year.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said issues with understanding crime recording rules had not been fully addressed since being identified in 2014, despite a concerted effort to improve data integrity.
It said the force required improvement overall and said its 91% rate for recording reported crime was 'inadequate' - equating to 5,300 total crimes and 3,600 violent crime going unrecorded.
In many cases, it said, victims were deprived of services and offenders not brought to justice.
Of 1,203 audited crime reports, 373 were domestic abuse related - 74 of which went unrecorded, including 66 violent crimes.
In most cases, inspectors found reports went unrecorded because officers and staff did not fully understand changes to requirements for crimes like coercive control, or did not always follow rules for recording non-injury assaults or reports from third party professionals.
Others did not always record a proper explanation for not recording a crime; did not record the crime when victims chose not to support investigation, or counted only one crime from records containing multiple reports - for example, several malicious communications amounting to a course of harassment.
HM Inspector Zoë Billingham said police were effective in ensuring correct decisions were made to cancel crimes and had one of the best sex offence recording rates (97.3%) of 41 forces inspected to date.
She said staff also had a good understanding of modern slavery, but that pockets of good practice needed to be replicated across all areas - particularly violent crime.
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Leadership and culture was rated 'outstanding' by inspectors, who said chief officers had consistently expressed the importance of proper recording, and its impact on victims, to the rest of the organisation.
Temporary assistant chief constable David Cutler said Suffolk was not an outlier when it came to requiring improvement, and that discussions continued at national level around the complexity of recording rules, but insisted work had been, and continued to be done to ensure the next report returned a 'good' or outstanding' rating.
"We're doing all we can to be compliant with crime recording," he added.
"The report shows we're not there yet, but acknowledges the work we have undertaken.
"All of this is to ensure victims have the confidence to come forward and report crime.
"I passionately care that they get the services they deserve - as do all our staff. If any victim feels they haven't, I absolutely apologise.
"We know guidelines change, and that we have to adapt, but I'm not making excuses. If we get the process right, we won't risk any victims falling through the gaps.
"We've made big inroads and have made a commitment to go further."
Police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said he knew the force was committed to making these improvements and that he would continue to monitor progress on behalf of Suffolk residents.
"Representing the needs of victims is a key part of my role and I am reassured that this issue is about the accuracy of crime recording and not about support to victims," he added.
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