THE Police and Crime Commissioner has praised Dyfed-Powys Police for improvements in identifying and responding to domestic abuse, but says there’s ‘still more to do’ in this important area.
In January 2018, the force identified domestic abuse as one of three core priorities for the 12 months ahead, and were keen to address the concerns raised by inspectors, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), about their initial risk assessments of domestic abuse incidents.
The work that followed included the introduction of a dedicated Vulnerability Desk in the force’s control room, which takes emergency and non-emergency calls, to help call-takers and response officers identify and risk assess domestic abuse at the earliest opportunity, and ensure crimes are properly recorded. The information the Desk provides to frontline staff ultimately helps police provide the best support to victims from the very first contact
Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys Police, Dafydd Llywelyn, said:
“I’m glad to see the force is taking this issue seriously. Domestic abuse is a horrific crime, which impacts survivors, children, families and the whole community.
“The force has invested in a bespoke training package, known as ‘Domestic Abuse Matters’, which is recognised at a national level and works in partnership with specialist domestic abuse services to enhance officer and staff understanding of the hidden side of domestic abuse, such as coercive control.
“Reports of controlling and coercive behaviour and stalking have risen sharply over the last year, which both I and the force welcome as a positive indicator that this training is working.
“While much positive progress has been made in this area, there is still more to do. I have concerns about the length of time some investigations are taking and have held detailed discussions with the Chief Officer team and the Head of Crime to scrutinise the force’s response in this important area.
“I am reassured that an Investigation Standards Gold Group has been set up to focus on ensuring officers and staff have the skills and knowledge to deliver swift, high quality investigations to victims of crime.
“We know the length of an investigation has a direct impact on victims and it is vital we keep victims engaged in the criminal justice process. We can do this by providing the right support at the outset, and delivering as swift a justice process as possible.
“I have been working with partner agencies to ensure victims are provided with the best possible services in what is one of the most rural and challenging geographical areas in England and Wales. This includes joint investment in to services for high risk victims, with the four local authorities, along with funding additional support for victims at any level of risk.”
The force is keen to put context around its current position, pointing out that Dyfed-Powys’ crime rate is the lowest in the country, despite the huge the influx of visitors over the summer period:
“Our crime rate per 1000 people is the lowest of 43 forces in the UK, and almost half that of the national average. We welcome hundreds of thousands of holiday makers to our four counties over the summer period, which boosts our population significantly and places extra demand on us.
“Despite the challenges we face, our overall charge rate is still significantly higher than national average.” Said Head of CID, Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Cockwell.
“The nature of crime has changed over recent years in areas such as complex sexual assault investigations, fraud and cyber-enabled crimes.” He continued.
“The increase in the use of technology and the amount of data held on mobile phones, tablets, and computers means that enquiries have become more protracted, and examination of devices takes longer. This is a challenge faced by the police service across the UK.
“In Dyfed-Powys Police we have invested heavily in our cyber-crime capacity, supported by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), who has provided funds for new equipment and technology to enhance our ability to examine devices more quickly.
“We have increased our specialist capacity in examining digital devices to address the increasing demand, and are also using triaging methods to prioritise devices where there is the best chance of recovering evidence.
“Thanks to this additional funding from the PCC, we are now building capability to examine phones in local hubs to improve timeliness, particularly where suspects are already in custody. The PCC’s re-investment in CCTV is also helping, and evidence from the cameras has already proved invaluable in a number of investigations, while also providing reassurance to the public.”