Cheshire Constabulary is outstanding when it comes to preventing crime.
The police force is one of just three in England and Wales which got top marks in the area of preventing criminal offences and anti-social behaviour and keeping people safe, according to a report published today (February 18) on police effectiveness by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
Overall, Cheshire police was rated good by the independent assessors, who acknowledged its work in investigating crime and managing offenders.
The HMIC has praised the force for carrying out high-quality investigations when an offence – particularly serious crime such as rape – has been committed.
The report states that Cheshire Constabulary has invested significantly in training staff – including special constables – in investigation skills and file preparation, and the Paedophile and Cyber Investigation Team is commended for its work in effectively prioritising investigations and helping to bring offenders to justice more quickly.
But it needs to improve on tackling serious and organised crimes.
The HMIC did recognise, however, that the force has a good understanding of the threat posed by serious and organised crime and regularly monitors the activity of organised crime groups.
Police and crime commissioner for Cheshire John Dwyer has welcomed the HMIC’s findings and sought to reassures the public that issues raised in the report are already being addressed.
“Cheshire has a constabulary keeping its communities safe and creating a hostile environment for criminals,” he said.
“What matters to the people of Cheshire is the number of police officers on the streets and, as a result of changes implemented, 53 extra officers will have been recruited by April 2016, with an extra 70 being recruited the coming year.”
The review also highlights that the force works well with other agencies to identify, investigate and bring to justice repeat and dangerous offenders and to stop them re-offending.
Praise is given for its ability to respond to major incidents and for its work in contingency planning.
Chief Con Simon Byrne said: “The report praises officers and staff across Cheshire for the high quality of their investigations and acknowledges the investment the force has made in this area. It also highlights the fact that response, neighbourhood and detective investigators work well together and that staff are used flexibly to meet demand.
“This was particularly evident during the summer when we faced a series of challenging events in Cheshire including the major and tragic explosion at Bosley, a fatal air crash during the Carfest motor show and a chemical incident on the motorway.
“The force was tested to its limits and rose to the challenge and I am extremely proud of how we dealt with a very difficult situation.
“It reinforces the commitment of everyone in Cheshire Constabulary to make a real difference to the local community.”
The HMIC graded once force – Durham Constabulary – as outstanding; 24 forces as good; and 18 forces as requiring improvement.
No force was found to be inadequate.
It found forces are mostly good at tackling serious and organised crime, although they are generally better at ‘traditional’ organised crime, such as drug-dealing, than so-called newer areas, such as child sexual exploitation and cyber-crime.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham, who led the inspection, has raised a ‘warning flag’, claiming that forces’ good performance in preventing crimes is at risk if neighbourhood policing is further eroded.
“Frontline neighbourhood police officers have told us repeatedly that they are being pulled from their vitally important preventative work in communities to fulfil other duties, like guarding crime scenes, spending time in stations investigating crimes or staffing police station front counters.
“Losing our eyes and ears in the community is only likely to hamper good performance in preventing crime.
“Police leaders need to take heed of HMIC’s early warning and make sure that neighbourhood policing - the cornerstone of the British policing model, is preserved for future generations.”
Do you agree with the HMIC's rating of Cheshire police? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ChesterChron.