Crime Data

Tabled: 5 September 2018

2 Collecting and recording crime data

Reporting on crime and other events occupies a substantial amount of police time—depending on the circumstances, they may spend time observing, investigating and recording details of offences. Police members use their judgment to determine whether they need to record an incident reported to them and use a range of paper-based and electronic means to capture the details.

This part of the report assesses whether Victoria Police collects and records crime data according to the required standards.

2.1 Conclusion

Our test of jobs dispatched by ESTA to members in divisional vans showed that 96.1 per cent were recorded in LEAP. This means that members are appropriately recording offences that originate from Triple Zero reports and that LEAP contains a reasonably complete record of these jobs. However, the technology used to record jobs in divisional vans is not linked to LEAP and members do not always record enough information to determine the outcomes of their investigations. Therefore, LEAP may not contain all information that was available to members, and details that may be important for future investigations may be lost.

Victoria Police does not know if members are complying with prima facie reporting in accordance with its own policy. We spoke to four members who gave examples of not complying with this requirement. If members do not apply the prima facie rule, they may fail to record all potential offences in LEAP, which means it will not completely and accurately reflect all crime detected by members. There is little evidence that Victoria Police has emphasised the importance of this style of reporting for general crime data to the same degree as it has for reporting family violence incidents.

Technical limitations in crime recording systems continue to frustrate members who need to re-enter the same information repeatedly. This increases the risk of data being entered inconsistently, makes quality review challenging and affects how quickly members can access incident details.

2.2 Capturing crime information

Prima facie reporting

Prima facie reporting provides members with more complete and reliable information about alleged perpetrators and victims.

ABS measures reported and unreported victims of crime, using police data and household data from Australian jurisdictions. In the explanatory notes of its report Recorded Crime—Victims, Australia (2016), ABS states that recording of assaults by Victoria Police does not meet the standard for prima facie reporting:

For incidents of assault, Victoria differs from other jurisdictions in the interpretation and implementation of the NCRS. Some element of an investigation will be undertaken before deciding whether to record an incident on their crime recording system. A record of the incident may be taken on other systems however the incident will not be recorded on the police recording system until it is determined that a crime has been committed. As a result of the comparability issues arising from this difference in interpretation and implementation of the NCRS a decision has been made (by the ABS) not to make available assault data for Victoria.

Assault—the intentional application of force by a person to the body or clothing of another person which is without lawful excuse and results in the infliction of bodily injury, pain, discomfort, damage, insult or deprivation of liberty.

Adapted from Victoria's Crimes Act 1958

A review commissioned by Victoria Police in 2013 found that there was a disconnect between the policy requirement to record crime prima facie and members' interpretation. When members were asked if they would record a minor assault in LEAP:

  • 61 per cent of respondents said they would not record the assault
  • 75 per cent of respondents said they would not record the assault if the parties had no visible injuries.

Following the review, Victoria Police implemented modified, less comprehensive versions of the recommendations, including issuing a policy statement endorsing prima facie reporting. There has been no further review of prima facie reporting since 2013.

Our discussions with members during this audit make clear that more work is required to embed the policy:

  • Four of the 14 constable-rank members we interviewed cited situations where they or their colleagues waited until they had completed further investigations before deciding whether to report an incident in LEAP.
  • One member stated that they like to make sure it is really a crime before reporting it and that a supervising sergeant will hold off on signing an ePDR until further investigation is completed.
  • A member of SOCIT spoke of receiving cases from members without any LEAP records, which conflicts with the intent of prima facie reporting. In addition to not complying with the Victorian Crime Recording Standards, this approach creates a risk that important details may never be recorded or that they may be forgotten by the time the incident is recorded, due to the time elapsed.

Victoria Police does not have evidence that the prima facie model of reporting is embedded in police practice, despite being official policy. It has limited understanding of how its members comply with the Victorian Crime Recording Standards. This means it does not know if the data includes the complete number of offences that should be reported.

Victoria Police needs to do further work to understand how members are reporting crime and to address any gaps. We have recommended that Victoria Police survey members on their reporting style to track their compliance with the Victorian Crime Recording Standards.

Reporting on family violence

Victoria Police released its Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence in 2004. An update in 2014 significantly changed the way police report on family violence, and in 2017 further information was added. The 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence also placed additional scrutiny on police responses to family violence.

Family violence incidents include non-criminal family incidents, such as verbal abuse, controlling and intimidating behaviour, and other behaviour or actions related to family violence that are typically considered civil matters—not handled by police—rather than criminal. These family violence interactions are recorded as incidents and referred to as 'event reports'. If a crime is committed as part of the event, it is recorded as a sub-incident within the event report. All members we interviewed during this audit stated that members comply with the requirements recording family violence incidents and record all family violence incidents regardless of whether an offence had occurred.

Incident—Victoria Police defines an incident as a related group of distinct course of conducts. One incident can include several sub-incidents.

Sub-incident—Victoria Police defines a sub‑incident as a single distinct course of conduct or occurrence. It can be a specific crime or event that forms part of an incident. Usually a sub‑incident records the principal offence within an incident.

Members completed extensive training to transition to these new reporting requirements. To mandate reporting of additional information, Victoria Police also updated the data processes and electronic data entry interfaces that capture the new information. This included adding fields to allow for detailed risk assessment of the likelihood of repeated incidents and danger to affected family members.

Victoria Police's commitment to implementing the recommendations from the Royal Commission to reduce delays in serving intervention orders on perpetrators of family violence, warrants and charges means that timely recording and serving is a high priority. Reports on family violence—in particular, Family Violence Safety Notices, which are notices of intervention served on perpetrators—must be entered into LEAP by the end of the rostered shift. For non-family violence incidents, members sometimes do not create the record until a day or two after the incident, despite the same expectation for timeliness. Timeliness of reporting is discussed in more detail in Part 3.

Victorian Crime Recording Standards

Completeness

The following sections from the Victorian Crime Recording Standards stipulate when a crime needs to be recorded:

A crime MUST be recorded corporately as soon as the reporting member is satisfied that, on the balance of probability, a crime has occurred. For crimes where an offender is not readily identified, the initial recording of the crime MUST NOT be delayed to gather further evidence.

After making an assessment that a crime has occurred the reporting member MUST take the necessary steps to ensure the crime is recorded corporately in a timely manner even if the victim/s do not wish to take the matter/s further or refuses to co-operate with police.

Similarly, if the reporting member determines a crime has taken place but no victim can immediately be identified, the crime MUST be recorded corporately.

We assess completeness in Sections 2.3 and 3.7. Figure 2A shows the information that must be recorded in crime reports.

Figure 2A
Data that members need to capture in crime reports

Data field

Definition

Mandatory policy requirement

Report date

Time and date police became aware of crime (not the date the report is compiled)

Yes

Reporting member and station

Police member responsible for managing initial report of crime

Yes

Offence code

Most serious offence detected

Yes

Statute

The number of offenders associated with the crime

Yes

Person/property

The number of occurrences of the same offence, at the same location (same victim)

Yes

Time and date

Times and dates the victim believes the crime occurred

Yes

Location

Location of where offence was alleged to have occurred—the minimum requirement is a suburb or town

Yes

Record status

Current status of investigation—for example, unsolved, intent to summons, offender charged, no offence disclosed, complaint withdrawn

Yes

Victim

Victim's full name and date of birth, contact address and phone numbers and response to Standard Indigenous Question as provided to police

Yes

Other names

Full name, date of birth, contact address and phone numbers for other persons associated with the crime

No

Motor vehicle

Motor vehicle associated with the crime—for example, stolen vehicle or victim's vehicle

Yes, if theft of motor vehicle or theft from motor vehicle

Property (including bicycle or drugs)

Stolen property items or seized drugs associated with the crime

No

Modus operandi location

The type of location where the crime allegedly occurred

Yes

Modus operandi

Method offenders used to commit crime

No

Investigating member

Member responsible for the ongoing management of the investigation

Yes

Narrative

Describes the circumstances in which the crime was committed and the ongoing investigation

Yes

Source: VAGO based on information provided by Victoria Police.

Accuracy

The checking supervisor conducts a general review of the information as required in the Victorian Crime Recording Standards, including:

  • the report time and date is when the police were informed of the crime
  • the crime incident 'from' and 'to' dates are before or equal to the report time and date
  • full location of the crime is recorded, for example, street number and street name
  • correct offence and modus operandi is recorded.

However, no expectations or key performance indicators are defined for accuracy. We discuss accuracy further in Part 3.

Timeliness

The Victorian Crime Recording Standards describe when crimes should be recorded in LEAP. In the majority of instances, members should submit the details of a crime for approval by the end of the shift on which they were informed of the crime.

The timeliness indicator is vague and does not include a maximum expectation for reporting, such as within 48 or 72 hours. It does not differentiate between serious and less harmful crimes. This makes measuring the timeliness of reporting difficult. We discuss this further in Part 3.

2.3 Are all reported offences being recorded?

Reporting suspected crime

Victoria Police believes that the number of calls to Triple Zero is a measure of community perception of crime and safety rather than actual crime. Our analysis of calls to Triple Zero showed that in addition to investigating suspicious activity, police are highly involved in welfare checks, assisting people with mental health issues, and lower-priority issues such as noise complaints. Many non-serious jobs are categorised as 'no offence detected' once police have conducted initial investigations.

Electronic running sheets

MDTs in divisional vans generate reports called ePDRs which capture the jobs that are dispatched by Triple Zero operators at ESTA. These ePDRs list the jobs dispatched to a unit with details from the caller, including the date, time and address, if available. The ePDRs also record speed checks, breath tests and all licence plate checks completed by members. Some reports made direct to a police station by telephone or made in person are also dispatched to MDTs for members on patrol to investigate. MDTs allow members to set their status, such as 'on patrol', 'arrived at a job' or 'at the police station', and to enter notes about how they have responded to jobs.

MDTs and ePDRs provide members with the ability to look up some existing LEAP record details, such as person and location warnings, and supervisors at the stations can oversee activities conducted in divisional vans in real time.

No offence disclosed—when further information exists to indicate the crime did not occur or has insufficient evidence, the status of the crime incident is amended to 'no offence disclosed'. A sergeant or above must approve the change before its status can be updated to 'no offence disclosed'.

—Adapted from the Victorian Crime Recording Standards

Members finalise ePDRs after their shifts, and supervising sergeants sign them off. When reviewing and approving ePDRs, the supervising sergeant needs to ensure that members have recorded appropriate actions or handovers to other units against the listed jobs, and that any required reporting of crimes, incidents and other details is completed.

Supervisors need to check that where 'no offence disclosed' is stated, members have exercised proper judgment. This is the primary way for Victoria Police to determine if jobs are assessed and recorded as they should be. This process is verbal unless a supervising sergeant asks a member to rework the report or investigate further—in this case, the ePDR is updated to clarify an outcome or capture additional information.

We found that the detail recorded in ePDRs is not always comprehensive and it is not always easy to determine the course of action taken by members nor the outcome of their investigations.

Testing LEAP data against ePDR jobs

We assessed whether members are recording incidents on a prima facie basis. If prima facie reporting is not embedded into practice, there is a risk that incidents reported to Triple Zero will not be recorded in LEAP when they should be. We also assessed whether members recorded ePDR jobs to LEAP in a timely manner.

For our tests, we could only assess information reported to divisional vans, as crimes reported to police stations in person or via telephone are not recorded in a consistent way or available electronically.

We reviewed ePDRs from randomly selected police stations. The methodology for our testing is contained in Appendix C.

Results

Our completeness test showed that, while most jobs are being recorded in LEAP, the level of detail recorded varies:

  • Of the ePDR jobs we tested, we found that 96.1 per cent of jobs were either recorded in LEAP or had reason not to be recorded.
  • We found that members did not always consistently record the outcome of jobs and that the details they added varied in length and quality. In some cases, it was not easy to understand how a job was completed because the outcome of the job was not detailed in the ePDR.
  • Although the system cannot record a large amount of information, members can improve the information by clearly detailing their progress.

Current monitoring by Victoria Police does not ensure members include sufficient detail in ePDRs. Members do not have a thorough understanding of when to report and how to report so that ePDRs contain a clear course of action and outcome.

2.4 Issues impacting crime recording

LEAP is not fully integrated with police IT systems and other justice agencies' systems. In some instances, such as for highly sensitive or potentially prejudicial information, it is useful to segregate access and transfer of information. However, for day-to-day administration of crime recording, Victoria Police could achieve substantial benefits by better connecting data and systems to streamline processes and avoid duplicated effort.

A lack of system integration increases the risk of inconsistent or incorrect information—for example, offender or location information recorded in an ePDR does not transfer to LEAP, so manual input is required in two separate systems. Currently, if members wish to charge an offender, they need to retype the offender information into the brief prepared for court, as LEAP cannot automatically generate it. Administration staff at local police stations further retype the data to track the movement of the brief around the police station and to the courts.

When an offender is apprehended, instead of adding information into LEDR Mk2, the member must complete a form and fax it to RSD to enter into LEAP. This outdated process risks the forms not being received or updated in a timely manner. Upgrades to LEDR Mk2 to enable members to complete offender processing will require significant work.

Victoria Police did not complete upgrades to offender processing in 2017–18 as planned. The scoping exercise will carry over into 2018–19. The modifications, if implemented, will not improve ePDR functionality or integration with LEAP but are intended to integrate with the court system, allowing members to process offenders and prepare and lodge required briefs for court.

Victoria Police is aware of the limitations of its information systems. By its own admission, it has not kept pace with technological developments. To date, it has been unsuccessful in securing funding for a new system to replace LEAP. Upgrades to LEDR Mk2 in 2013 did speed up the recording and approval process, and modifications to improve functionality have been completed regularly since 2013. Victoria Police is planning to introduce the ability for members to directly process offenders, however, the timing of the release is unclear.

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