Posted: Fri 10th Nov 2023

North Wales Police found to be ‘inadequate’ at responding to serious organised crime

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Nov 10th, 2023

North Wales Police has come under fire for its “inadequate” response to tackling serious organised crime (SOC).

A report published today, November 10th by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has raised significant concerns about the force’s approach to SOC, highlighting several key areas for improvement.

The report emphasised that North Wales Police should ensure it has sufficient resources to effectively combat serious organised crime. Furthermore, it stressed the importance of the workforce understanding that serious organised crime is a priority.

These concerns are raised in response to several issues identified by HMICFRS that have affected the force’s ability to tackle SOC effectively.

According to the HMICFRS report, while North Wales Police’s corporate plan identifies serious organised crime as a priority threat, some personnel within the force did not fully grasp the significance of this priority.

Serious organised crime encompasses a wide range of illegal activities, from criminal gangs and networks involved in drug trafficking and the use of firearms to human trafficking, child sexual exploitation, cybercrime, and fraud.

These diverse criminal activities all fall under the same category of serious organised crime, representing a complex and multifaceted challenge for the police and specialist teams such as the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU).

NWROCU is a collaboration between the six North West Police Forces in Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, and North Wales.

The HMICFRS report found NWROCU, to which North Wales Police contribute officers, ‘outstanding’ at tackling serious and organised crime.

However, His Majesty’s Inspectorate found that one of the major challenges identified in the report is the insufficient analytical resources available to North Wales Police. These resources are crucial for the force to fully understand emerging SOC threats and develop effective strategies to combat them.

The report noted that the head of analysis often had to make difficult decisions when prioritising analytical work, resulting in limited capacity for proactive analysis of SOC threats.

Moreover, the report revealed that two out of three locally based proactive units were not fully operational, significantly limiting the force’s capacity to address SOC threats.

Local senior officers often had to rely on their local policing teams to manage SOC threats, but these teams were also required to respond to other local demands, such as burglary investigations.

Collaboration and coordination among lead responsible officers (LROs) and other teams were found to be inconsistent, hindering the overall effectiveness of SOC tackling efforts.

LROs play a crucial role in managing SOC investigations, but the report highlighted a lack of contact between LROs, force specialist senior investigating officers, and other teams.

For some investigations, senior investigating officers managed the “pursue” element, while LROs managed the “prevent” and “protect” elements. This lack of coordination in formulating 4P plans compromised the force’s ability to respond effectively to SOC threats.

Tactical 4P (Pursue, Prevent, Protect, Prepare) plans, which are essential for addressing specific SOC threats, were criticised for their inconsistent quality and lack of necessary details.

Some plans appeared to be too generic and did not include information from community profiles or consultation with partners.

The report emphasised the need for the force to review its approach to 4P plans to ensure they are tailored to specific threats and consistently of high quality.

The UK government’s counter-terrorism and serious organised crime strategies emphasise the ‘4P’ approach, which involves pursuing offenders through prosecution and disruption, preparing for and mitigating the impact of crimes or terrorist attacks, protecting individuals and organisations, and preventing individuals from engaging in criminal or terrorist activities.

Another significant concern highlighted in the HMICFRS report was the force’s failure to routinely record learning from SOC-related activities.

Despite recommendations to improve this aspect since 2016, the force had not implemented a system for identifying and applying lessons learned from operational debriefs.

Additionally, there was no routine evaluation of prevent and protect activities during fieldwork, leaving valuable insights untapped.

Positive

The inspection acknowledged positive efforts within the force, including collaboration with partners to protect vulnerable individuals from exploitation.

Notably, the force established an operation to support county lines victims and worked closely with housing partners to safeguard cuckooing victims.

Furthermore, the force implemented the ‘Checkpoint’ program, providing voluntary alternatives to prosecution for adult offenders on the brink of criminality, resulting in low reoffending rates.

Initiatives like the mini police program in 13 schools and dedicated officers in secondary schools aim to raise awareness and divert young people from involvement in serious organised crime.

Disappointment

Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman expressed her disappointment with the local grading.

She emphasised the region’s outstanding work in tackling main SOC threats regionally and highlighted efforts to increase the number of officers in proactive roles.

She said: “I fully accept the findings of the report and I am committed to addressing its recommendations. Whilst disappointed with the grading, I am pleased to say we have already made significant changes in improving the way we tackle serious and organised crime within our communities.”

Chief Constable Blakeman committed to addressing the report’s recommendations and acknowledged ongoing changes to improve the response to serious and organised crime within the communities.

She said: “We are not complacent. We will continue our proactive operations, supported by co-ordinated activity with our partners, to ensure we support vulnerable people exploited because of organised criminality, and make North Wales a hostile environment for those who cause the most harm in our communities.”

Chief Constable Blakeman concluded by affirming the commitment to implementing an action plan to address the organisational changes required to improve the areas identified by the Inspectorate.

She also highlighted the effective community profiles in place and the recognition of their benefit by partner agencies.

The ‘Prevention Hub’ was mentioned as an initiative aimed at preventing people from becoming crime victims, consisting of several teams and other agencies, including Community Safety and Youth Justice.

The force’s work to support victims of County Lines continues, with examples of officers collaborating with partners to protect victims of cuckooing.

The latest crime survey of England and Wales showed North Wales had an 11.3% reduction in total recorded crime. This continues to be the most substantial reduction in England and Wales, compared to a national increase of 2.2%.

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