Durham Constabulary rated ‘outstanding’ at tackling organised crime

Durham Constabulary’s work to tackle serious and organised crime across the force area has been rated ‘outstanding’ by inspectors.

Nov 17, 2023
By Paul Jacques
Acting Chief Constable Ciaron Irvine

A report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) published on Friday (November 17) praised the constabulary for its “innovative” work in taking on organised crime groups.

Acting Chief Constable Ciaron Irvine said: “Organised crime causes very real harm to our communities, including violence, intimidation and the supply of drugs.

“Our officers will take on organised crime whenever and wherever we find it and in the last year our teams have taken significant numbers of criminals, drugs and weapons off the streets.

“We will do all we can to continually improve our performance and I am pleased to see this report highlight the outstanding dedication and commitment of our officers and staff to protect the communities we serve, by tackling those issues which matter most and cause greatest harm.”

In the past few months alone, Durham Constabulary has seen:

  • Seven members of the same violent gang who terrorised the streets of Horden jailed for a total of 95 years as part of Operation Coastal;
  • Five people appear in court after a string of house burglaries across east Durham, including elderly victims and parents threatened in front of their children, as part of Operation Iceberg;
  • A South Durham money launderer jailed for 16 years and his two associates jailed for six years each for transporting Class A drugs to be sold on the streets of South Durham;
  • A dozen firearms seized and two men jailed as part of Operation Mermaid targeting a Langley Park illegal armoury believed to supply weapons to organised crime; and
  • Four arrested and 2000 plants seized in a raid on a Ferryhill cannabis farm.

Durham was also rated ‘good’ in the HMICFRS Peel report for preventing and deterring crime.

Inspectors highlighted a string of forward-thinking programmes, which have saved thousands of people from potentially falling victim to crime. Projects highlighted include the innovative Wide prevention programme which achieved a 64 per cent reduction in burglary in hot spot areas of East Durham and action to reduce violence against women and girls in Darlington’s night-time economy.

The force was also assessed as being ‘good’ at properly recording crime, with the report highlighting work to make sure rape and other sexual offences are correctly recorded.

Although the HMICFRS Peel report did not highlight any identifiable causes for concern, it did assess the force as ‘requiring improvement’ in terms of responding to the public, particularly in terms of call handling times for 101 calls, and protecting vulnerable people.

 

An extra 15 call handlers and nine switchboard staff have since been recruited to work in the force control room, alongside a new switchboard triage system.

As a result, the average time to answer a 101 call has halved in recent months and, despite a significant increase in call volume, average 999 answer times have remained consistent with more than 75 per cent of calls being answered within ten seconds.

The force has also agreed a move to the Single Online Home website from early next year, which will allow members of the public to submit some queries and applications online, freeing-up more control room staff to deal with 101 and 999.

Regarding vulnerable people, a dedicated team has since been set up which has contributed to 74 Domestic Violence Prevention Orders, a legal tool which protects victims from their abusers, being applied for at court so far this year with six custodial sentences being issued by the courts in recent months for the breaches of these orders.

The force has also put in extra resources to speed up applications under Clare’s Law and Sarah’s Law, has significantly increased the number of cases going before Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences and has tightened up procedures around immediately recording high risk categories for missing people from within the control room.

Mr Irvine said: “We are constantly trying to deliver a better service and make improvements, but this rigorous inspection shows we are tackling the things that matter most to our communities and are delivering on our values to protect the people of County Durham and Darlington.

“The praise of our positive workforce culture, effective planning for the future and the positive engagement with our communities is well deserved and reflects significant effort across the organisation.

“It has highlighted the outstanding work that our officers are doing in tackling the significant harm done to our communities by organised crime, but it has also pointed to some areas where we need to do better and we are confident that we have plans in place which will ensure we deliver those improvements.”

Mr Irvine added: “Investment has been made in the force control room and the speed at which we answer both 999 and 101 calls has increased significantly in recent months. With the support of the police and crime commissioner, the constabulary will be further accelerating this improvement with additional technology investment early into the new year.

“The constabulary has also addressed the areas raised in the inspection with regard to protecting vulnerable people. Additional resource and revised processes have seen almost overnight improvements in this area, with further work to ensure consistently high-quality delivery already well advanced.

“Whilst there will be some concern that overall grades for the constabulary are lower, this must be seen in the context of the new inspection regime and I am confident that Durham Constabulary remains among the best performing police forces in the country.”

Among areas highlighted by HMICFRS was the need to make sure the force “promptly identifies vulnerability” when people, particularly children and young people, go missing.

His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Roy Wilsher said: “I am pleased with some aspects of Durham Constabulary’s performance in keeping people safe, reducing crime and providing victims with an effective service.

“However, there are areas in which it needs to improve. The constabulary has a higher-than-average number of non-emergency calls, but it doesn’t always answer emergency and non-emergency calls as quickly as it should. While the constabulary has tried to prioritise where it puts its resources, it needs to do more to meet the public’s needs in all areas.

“While the constabulary has one of the highest rates of domestic abuse repeat incidents in England and Wales, it isn’t making good use of protective measures or effectively referring victims for support.

“We are assured that senior leaders have already started to plan how they will address the areas for improvement we have identified.

“I hope the changes that follow result in improvements that help Durham Constabulary better meet the public’s needs. We will be monitoring its progress closely.”

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