Under pressure police officers slow at investigating crime in South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Dawn Copley
South Yorkshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Dawn Copley
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South Yorkshire Police has been told it ‘requires improvement’ at keeping people safe and reducing crime.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary looked at how well the force prevents crime and anti-social behaviour, investigates crime and manage offenders, protects vulnerable people, supports victims and tackles serious and organised crime.

It was judged good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour and tackling serious and organised crime – but was warned it needs to improve the way it manages offenders and investigates crime.

Overall it was rated as ‘requiring improvement’ at keeping people safe and reducing crime.

One of the issues highlighted was the length of time it takes officers to respond to crimes because of how busy they are.

HMIC inspector Mike Cunningham said: “HMIC judged that overall South Yorkshire Police needs to improve how it reduces crime and keeps people safe. In particular, the force needs to ensure that it responds with appropriate promptness to reports of crime.

“HMIC was concerned to find that due to high levels of demand, officers are not able to pursue investigative opportunities consistently in a timely way.

“Officers are becoming frustrated and we are concerned that evidential opportunities may be lost along with the confidence of victims and witnesses.”

The force was praised for the way it ‘engages well with communities’ and uses the full range of powers available to ‘tackle organised crime groups and associated low-level crime, and anti-social behaviour’.

Deputy Chief Constable Dawn Copley said: “We welcome the feedback from HMIC, which concluded that effectiveness within the force requires improvement.

“This overall grade is made up of four areas – two of which were graded as ‘good’ and two which ‘requires improvement’. This feedback will allow us to further improve and strengthen our services.

“Overall, HMIC recognise that the force works well to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, and we have been successful in maximising the proportion of our staff on front line duties against a reducing workforce.

“The feedback about how effectively we tackle serious and organised crime, including the use of the full range of legal powers, is welcomed, as these matters affect all our communities.”

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said:“HMIC reports are useful for me when I hold the force to account. They help me see more clearly the areas that need greater attention.

“This report concentrates on how effective the force is at preventing and investigating crime and anti-social behaviour, tackling serious and organised crime and protecting victims and the vulnerable. It is a mixed picture of ‘good’ and ‘requiring improvement’.

“I am pleased that the force is considered ‘good’ at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and keeping people safe. Keeping people safe is the overall outcome of the Police and Crime Plan that I produce each year. Wherever I go, people in all communities say they want the police to keep them safe. I believe the decision to keep neighbourhood teams with PCSOs was the right one, even though numbers are becoming stretched. We shall keep PCSO numbers at existing levels – 225 – for the coming years.

“It is also good news that the force is ‘good’ at tackling serious and organised crime and fulfilling national responsibilities, including cyber-crime. The report acknowledges that South Yorkshire has some very experienced and capable officers.

“But the force will have to work at improving the way it investigates crime more generally and manages offenders. The latter will require greater co-operation with other agencies. However, I note that victim satisfaction levels remain above the national average. I also note the strain that has been placed on the force due to cuts in grant and therefore in numbers. We need to find more savings from areas other than the workforce if the good work is to be built upon.

“I shall be particularly concerned to ensure that the force thinks more carefully about how it protects from harm those who are vulnerable andthose who become victims of crime.

“I am very pleased that the report recognises the steps that have been taken to improve the force’s response to child sexual exploitation. It states clearly that there is now strong leadership in place and it is ‘well-prepared’ to tackle child sexual exploitation.

“But more needs to be done to understand domestic abuse and help the victims and their children.

“Protecting the vulnerable will be a key priority for the renewed Police and Crime Plan which I shall be publishing in a few weeks time. We need to expand our understanding of who the vulnerable are.

“There are also growing categories of victims that need sensitive help,such as those suffering domestic abuse or those caught up in modern slavery and trafficking. We are only just beginning to recognise the scale of the problem.

“I will use this report to focus the attention of the police on these areas of growing concern.”