December 19 2013 Latest news:
Dean Kilpatrick, Reporter
Saturday, June 30, 2012
The force has been told to do better when dealing with anti-social behaviour
Kent Police have come under fire in a new report exposing failings in the way it deals with vulnerable victims of antisocial behaviour.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that while there had been some progress since 2010, the force was still failing to identify vulnerable victims quickly enough.
Police call takers are expected to assess the risk of those reporting antisocial behaviour, but inspectors found that in more than half of 100 calls monitored, the caller was not asked whether they had been a victim before.
The report also noted that calls were not being recorded if the caller was identified as a victim, despite guidelines strongly recommending the practice.
Only last year the force announced a new risk assessment system to identify vulnerable victims.
It followed a number of high profile cases including that of Fiona Pilkington who killed herself and her disabled daughter after years of torment from youths at their home near Hinckley, Leicestershire.
The desperate mother had complained to police 33 times. A report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission found the Leicestershire force had failed to identify them as vulnerable.
In 2010, HMIC told forces the best way to deal with antisocial behaviour included identifying whether the caller was at risk and briefing all relevant members of staff.
Kent Police addressed these concerns by agreeing to set up a shared IT system with Kent County Council to manage long-term problems, but HMIC said the force was “still unable to consistently identify repeat and vulnerable victims when they first call”.
The watchdog also highlighted concerns that certain victims may not be getting the extra support they need, and that officers on the beat don’t have enough time to deal with such issues.
This is despite Kent Police having to deal with a “relatively low level of antisocial behaviour” in comparison to the national picture, according to the report.
Crime charity Victim Support said it was concerned some victims were still slipping through the net.
Chief executive Javed Khan said: “It takes a lot of courage to call the police and they need to know they’ll receive a high level of support and be kept in the loop about their case.
“It is unacceptable that some police forces are lagging behind others.”
Kent Police said it would take the positives out of the report and stressed the force was getting better at dealing with antisocial behaviour.
It also pointed out that only a small-scale survey was carried out by HMIC before the report was written up.
Chief Superintendent Steve Corbishley said: “Tackling antisocial behaviour is a force priority which we take seriously and we are committed to investigating as thoroughly as we do other crimes.
“We are already seeing benefits to our approach, as in areas where we reduce antisocial behaviour we also see reductions in other criminality like violence and criminal damage.
“This report is an encouraging assessment of our progress, but we are not complacent and we will continue to focus our efforts, especially for those who are vulnerable or repeat victims.”
The force said staff were trained to deal with at risk victims appropriately.
“All our call takers and first responders are trained to identify repeat or vulnerable victims so we can offer the necessary support to them at the first opportunity,” said Chief Superintendent Corbishley.
“We arrange to personally visit all vulnerable or repeat victims so we can work with them to put a clear plan in place to tackle the issue, often working together with other agencies.”
But there are fears policing of antisocial behaviour could worsen as deep cuts are made.
Kent’s force, which needs to make £50m savings over four years to 2014-15, will see officer numbers cut by 500 and staff by 1,000.
Vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales Simon Reed said tackling antisocial behaviour must remain a priority for policing.
“However, the cut to the policing budget will mean that chief officers will have very difficult decisions to make about priorities and deployment of resources as police numbers continue to fall,” he added.
The HMIC report concluded that emergency response officers and local investigators were focusing their attention on burglary and car crime, leaving the responsibility of antisocial behaviour to police community support officers (PCSOs).
Incidents such as rowdy behaviour, vandalism, and nuisance neighbours are deemed as antisocial behaviour since the law was introduced in 2003.
HMIC Inspector of Constabulary for the eastern region Zoe Billingham said: “While the progress the force has made so far represents another step towards delivering a much better service to victims, there is no room for complacency.
“In particular, Kent Police should ensure repeat and vulnerable callers are consistently identified at the first point of contact, and that they address concerns HMIC has raised previously.”