Inspectors have singled out North Wales Police for praise for the pioneering way it deals with crimes against the elderly.
A major report by Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services said they were “impressed” by the new system introduced by the force.
They urged other constabularies in England and Wales to copy the methods used in North Wales to ensure investigators had the right skills and training to suit the particular circumstances of each case.
North Wales Police was one of six forces put under the microscope by the inspectors.
The findings were welcomed by the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Arfon Jones, who said the ground-breaking approach chimed with the priorities of his Police and Crime Plan.
North Wales Police Chief Constable Carl Foulkes also welcomed the fact that the report recognises that the police have adopted new and innovative practice.
Elsewhere, according to the inspection report, crime against older people wasn’t well understood and victims were often let down by the police and wider criminal justice system which did not always understand their needs and experiences.
Overall, older people accounted for 18 percent of the population, but over eight out of 10 victims of doorstop scams were elderly, and they also comprised a quarter of domestic homicide victims.
The success of the system in North Wales was down to the way the force chose the right people to investigate crimes against the elderly.
The report said: “In most of the forces we visited, the crime allocation policies weren’t sophisticated enough to always produce the right decisions for the particular circumstances of the case.
“Victims suffered poor outcomes after their case was allocated to officers who may not have the skills and training, or time, to investigate effectively.
“In one force, North Wales Police, we were impressed with a more detailed and well-researched crime allocation process that was likely to provide more consistent and well-evidenced decisions.
“North Wales Police has introduced a crime allocation triage process based on a simple-to-use scoring matrix.
“The system gives scores for various aspects of the investigative process, and considers risk, severity and complexity.
“Importantly, the development of the process was based on an analysis of which police role made the best decisions about crime allocation. This showed that detective sergeants were best placed to make these decisions based on their investigative skills and experience.
“The resulting process considers important questions such as whether a safeguarding meeting may be required, and what the needs of the victim may be – for example, a video-recorded interview or special measures.
“The process provides an indicative score that enables good decisions to be made about which officers are best placed to investigate the crimes.
“This system, while still relatively new, has the potential to improve crime investigation.
“This is because it can more consistently recognise that not all crimes and victims are the same, and each has different needs that may require different skills and training.”
Mr Jones, a former police inspector, said: “I am very pleased that North Wales Police is leading the way in how it responds to crimes against older people.
“My vision for policing North Wales is based on reducing threat, risk and harm by identifying the most vulnerable people in society and ensuring they are the priority for the Police and Crime Plan.
“Three of the priorities are based around vulnerability and the interests of elderly people are certainly a key focus for the plan.
“I would like to pay tribute to the force for the innovative way in which they have risen to the challenge.
“They are a shining example to forces across the UK and it is right that the inspectors should urge others to follow our example to ensure that crimes against the elderly can be investigated by the right people with the right skills.”
Chief Constable Foulkes added: “Within North Wales Police we recognised the need to allocate crime in a different way, to ensure crimes are investigated by the right officer with the right skill set.
Allocation of a crime should not just rely on crime type, but take into account a victim’s needs, any threat, risk or harm, as well as the complexity of the investigation.”
“The crime allocation triage is carried out by Detective Sergeants. They take into account a number of factors and allocate the crime based on a generated score. This allows for crimes with complexity and vulnerability to have further scrutiny and evidence based decisions made on allocation.
“We are pleased that this new and innovative practise has been recognised positively by HMICFRS. As with all processes, we will continue to monitor it success as we strive to improve our response to victims of crime.”