Overall, the quality of crime recording in Scotland is good but new and emerging threats are increasing and changing demands on policing, says a report published by HMICS today.
The Crime Audit 2016 is the second major audit of Police Scotland’s crime recording carried out by HMICS following a similar audit in 2014. In 2016, HMICS examined over 6,000 incidents and over 5,000 crimes.
HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, Derek Penman, said ‘The results of our audit build on the already positive results from our last audit in 2014. They provide assurance to communities across Scotland that they can have confidence in crime figures, with an overall figure of almost 93% of incidents being closed correctly and 95% of crime being counted and classified correctly.’
‘There are effective leadership and governance arrangements in place for the management of ethical and accurate crime recording within Police Scotland. External governance arrangements have developed significantly since 2014 with the Scottish Government taking a proactive role through the Scottish Crime Recording Board.’
‘While our audit shows that crime recording practice is improving, it also provides evidence that Police Scotland should focus on managing demand, creating capacity and re-investing that capacity into prevention and responding to new and emerging challenges.’
The report highlights the need to further develop the policing response to emerging threats such as online sexual harm and fraud.
HMICS found that 11.4% of sexual incidents audited had a cyber element and a significant proportion of these involved children. Despite preventive and enforcement action being taken by Police Scotland as well as other agencies, the HMICS audit highlights the risk of sexual harm online and the increasing demands placed on the police service.
HMICS also highlighted the need to improve the reporting arrangements for fraud in Scotland.
Mr Penman said, ‘Criminals are increasingly exploiting opportunities from the internet to commit crime. As Police Scotland develops its response to these new and emerging threats, it is likely that crimes including fraud and other cyber-enabled offences will increase significantly and impact on the historic reductions in reported crime.’
To help manage these evolving demands, HMICS has highlighted the importance of developing a sustainable policing service which makes the most effective use of its resources. HMICS notes there is scope for some lower level incidents to be resolved and recorded at the public’s first point of contact with the police, sometimes without the need for police attendance. These incidents could be resolved quickly and to the complainer’s satisfaction.
Mr Penman said, ‘Resolving some cases at first point of contact would improve the quality of service to the public and would reduce demand on the frontline, allowing officers to attend more serious cases and be more visible in their local communities.’
The need to make more effective use of available resources is highlighted by the finding that it is taking longer for the police to record a crime this year than it was in 2014. The audit also found that there remains scope for improvement in relation to recording sexual crime. Referring these cases to specialist investigation units, such as divisional rape investigation units, can have a negative impact on the accurate and timely recording of sexual crime.
HMICS noted improvements in the classification of violent crime and in no-crime decision making. There was also significant progress in keeping complainers updated in cases where a no-crime decision was made.
The report contains 15 recommendations and three improvement actions for Police Scotland and the Scottish Crime Recording Board.