A Step in the Right Direction: The policing of anti-social behaviour, HMIC 2012

In Spring 2010 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) conducted an extensive review to determine how well forces understood and responded to their local ASB problems. They also surveyed more than 5,500 members of the public who had recently reported ASB to the police to find out about their experiences. The results of that initial review can be found here.

HMIC committed to repeat the review in 2012 to check on progress. This ‘A Step in the Right Direction’ publication summarises the national picture following that review as well as a survey (this time extended to 9,300 people) and for the first time the results of listening to recordings of more than 4,400 calls made to the police by victims of ASB.

Key Statistics

bullet 74% felt the police were doing a good job in general
bullet 55% of victims reported they were satisfied with how well the police deal with ASB in their local area
bullet 32% were dissatisfied with how well the police deal with ASB in their local area
bullet 49% of victims felt that the police had taken action in response to their call
bullet Where the police did take action, 84% of victims were satisfied with what was done.

Our Analysis

Whilst there has been improvement, the HMIC itself recognises that “it cannot be acceptable that one in three victims across England and Wales does not get the service they feel they should”.

33 forces now have computer systems which help them to identify repeat victims (up from 28 in 2010) while 21 forces have computer systems that can flag vulnerable victims (up from 8 in 2010). Yet, listening to calls indicated that this investment in technology has not translated into consistent identification of victims!!!

To identify repeat victimisation and vulnerability relies, as you might expect, on the questioning carried out by the police officer or member of staff taking the call. No IT system can compensate for poor questioning. Of great concern, only five forces consistently question the caller to establish repeat victimisation, and no forces regularly use verbal checks to determine vulnerability. As HMIC concludes, this means some victims are slipping through the net and not getting the extra support they may need. Concerning indeed!

The reviews also identified discrepancies in the correct categorisation of anti-social behaviour. 13% of incidents which should have been recorded as personal were not recorded as such by the police. This is an issue because personally-targeted anti-social behaviour involves a higher risk of harm and thus must be identified from the moment it is first reported.

The HMIC concludes that improvements have been made in spite of resource cutbacks. Our perspective, however, is that poor identification of vulnerable victims is a huge failing which should have been prioritised following the 2010 reviews. Cases such as that of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter, which has sparked much of recent, victim-focused developments in the ASB field, are still at high risk of being repeated. This surely must be the absolute priority for the police forces in delivering a much better service to victims.