They way Suffolk police deal with vulnerable people and domestic abuse ‘requires improvement’ according to HM Inspector of Constabulary.
However, the inspector was pleased with action the force has taken, though neighbouring Norfolk was classed as ‘good’ and attracted no criticism.
In the year to March 31, Suffolk saw an 18.2 per cent increase in recorded domestic abuse calls to 6.2 cases per 1,000 population, compared to an increase in England and Wales of 20.8 per cent to 15.8 per 1,000.
Inspector Zoe Billingham said of Suffolk: “The force generally provides a good service to vulnerable victims, such as children at risk of harm and victims of domestic abuse, although there are areas for improvement.”
She praised the force for giving protection of the vulnerable a high priority and for the dedication of its staff as well as the ‘good knowledge’ of officers attending domestic violence incidents.
But she added: “It is disappointing however that frontline officers do not have routine access to either body-worn video cameras or digital cameras to capture important evidence. The force has acknowledged our concerns and work is already underway to address them.
“We found that the workloads within specialist teams investigating rape and child abuse are high, leading some delays in investigations, but once again I am pleased that the force has taken immediate steps to address this.
“The force needs to do more to ensure that it provides a consistent and co-ordinated response to missing and absent children.”
Detective Superintendent Dave Cutler said: “Our response to vulnerability is a critical area of our work and it is essential that we get this right. We are a victim centred organisation and it is important that we understand the needs of vulnerable people.
“A huge amount of work has been carried out to improve the way we respond to cases involving vulnerability and this has been recognised by the Inspectors.
“The demand faced by our teams dealing with these types of offences has increased dramatically, in line with police forces nationally. We are receiving far more reports of crime involving vulnerability, such as sexual offences, domestic abuse and child sexual exploitation.
“In response to this change in demand, we have re-designed our services and strengthened our teams. Additional detectives and staff investigators have been moved into the Protecting Vulnerable People (PVP) directorate throughout the year. Processes have been redesigned to improve the way that caseloads are managed and the quality of supervision has been enhanced with the addition of experienced supervisory staff.”
A new policy has been introduced to deal with missing and absent children.