Cheshire Police must do more to tackle serious and organised crime

According to the latest report by Her Majesty′s Inspector of Constabulary, which is published today (Thursday 18th February) Cheshire Constabulary is good at keeping people safe and reducing crime but need to focus on improving the way they tackle serious crime.

The independent assessors concluded that the constabulary uses priority-based budgeting effectively to support its priorities and preventing crime and anti-social behaviour is its highest priority. It works well to protect and support vulnerable victims. The constabulary has the necessary arrangements in place to ensure that it can fulfil its national policing responsibilities but it needs to do more to improve its arrangements to tackle serious and organised crime.

The review, the final one to be announced as part of the annual PEEL inspections (into Police Efficiency, Effectiveness and Legitimacy), focuses on how effective a police force is at keeping people safe and reducing crime.

Cheshire Constabulary has been rated as 'good' overall – with the force highlighted as 'outstanding' for its work in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and keeping the public of Cheshire safe (one of only three forces to be given this rating for this particular area).

It was rated good at investigating crime and managing offenders as well as protecting from harm those who are vulnerable, and supporting victims.

However, the force's tackling of serious and organised crime, including its arrangements for fulfilling its national policing responsibilities, requires improvement.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: "We see on a daily basis the impact that crime and anti-social behaviour can have on the local community, which is why we are highly committed as a force to doing all we can to ensure it does not happen in the first place. This independent review quite rightly acknowledges the fact that this is the highest priority of all officers and staff throughout the Constabulary – and we have been rated as 'outstanding' in this particular area.

"The report highlights many areas of success for the Constabulary with particular emphasis on the broad range of tactics we use to prevent crime, how we use specific powers to tackle anti-social behaviour and the important work we do with a wide range of partners to tackle the issues that matter to local people.

"Almost a year ago I launched a clear set of commitments that describe the level of service members of the public should expect from Cheshire Constabulary – one of these focuses on the fact that 'We're Here' to support communities – and this review reinforces the fact that we are delivering on that commitment. Neighbourhood Policing remains a priority in Cheshire."

Police & Crime Commissioner for Cheshire John Dwyer said: "Independent inspectors assessed how effective the force is at preventing and investigating crime and anti-social behaviour, tackling serious and organised crime and protecting victims and those who are vulnerable.

"These are the most important responsibilities for a police force and are the principal measures by which the public will judge the performance of their local force and policing as a whole. I welcome HMIC's report.

"The first duty of the police is to protect its citizens from harm. Cheshire has been rated as 'good' overall but in particular we have been rated as 'outstanding' in preventing crime and keeping people safe - once again demonstrating that the plans I have put in place have been effective and are delivering excellent results. Cheshire has a Constabulary keeping its communities safe and creating a hostile environment for criminals.

"What matters to the people of Cheshire is the number of police officers on the streets and, as a result of changes implemented, 53 extra officers will have been recruited by April 2016, with an extra 70 being recruited the coming year."

HMIC has acknowledged the work of the Constabulary in investigating crime and managing offenders. When a crime has occurred, it praises the Constabulary for carrying out high quality investigations – in particular serious crimes such as rape, which are investigated to a very high standard.

The report states that Cheshire has invested significantly in training staff - including special constables - in investigation skills and file preparation and the Paedophile and Cyber Investigation Team is praised for its work in effectively prioritising investigations and helping to bring offenders to justice more quickly.

The review also highlights that the force works well with other agencies to identify, investigate and bring to justice repeat and dangerous offenders and to stop them re-offending. The Constabulary is also praised for its work in contingency planning and its ability to respond to major incidents

Chief Constable Byrne added: "The report praises officers and staff across Cheshire for the high quality of their investigations and acknowledges the investment the force has made in this area. It also highlights the fact that response, neighbourhood and detective investigators work well together and that staff are used flexibly to meet demand.

"This was particularly evident during the summer when we faced a series of challenging events in Cheshire including the major and tragic explosion at Bosley, a fatal air crash during the Carfest motor show and a chemical incident on the motorway. The force was tested to its limits and rose to the challenge and I am extremely proud of how we dealt with a very difficult situation. It reinforces the commitment of everyone in Cheshire Constabulary to make a real difference to the local community."

Whilst tackling serious and organised crime is highlighted as an area requiring improvement HMIC did recognise that the force has a good understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime and regularly monitors the activity of organised crime groups.

The report states "It has produced a comprehensive profile of serious and organised crime, which outlines the level and type of threat that exists within the force area. However, more could be done with the inclusion of partner information.

"The capability of the intelligence function needs to improve within the constabulary's new arrangements. The knowledge and awareness among local officers about locally based information is inconsistent."

Mr Dwyer added: "HMIC identified one area in its review for Cheshire that requires improvement regarding tackling serious and organised crime and it is my job as Commissioner to hold the Chief Constable to account for this. I want to reassure the public that the Chief Constable is already addressing the issues raised in the report and I will continue to monitor progress on this."

In October, Cheshire Constabulary was one of only a handful of police forces across the country to be rated 'outstanding' for efficiency. In December, Cheshire Constabulary was rated 'good' at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm and supporting victims (this is one strand of the Effectiveness review). Last week the force was rated 'good' for Legitimacy.