Software rollout failure led to Devon & Cornwall cops recording zero crime for 3 months

It’s not a crime if you don’t have a record

Updated It is a sleepy corner of the United Kingdom, but even the southwest peninsula is likely not a place where there is no crime whatsoever for a whole quarter.

Well, maybe it is a crime-free paradise, and maybe it isn't, because a failure in the implementation of a new computer system has meant Devon & Cornwall Police registered no offences committed with the nation's official data collection agency, the Office for National Statistics.

In the ONS's official release of crime data, it noted that: "Following the implementation of a new IT system in November 2022, Devon & Cornwall Police have been unable to supply data for the quarter, October 2022 to December 2022."

In May 2020, the police force — which oversees a 150-mile (241km) stretch of the southwest peninsula of England — signed a contract with Canada's Niche Technology to use NicheRMS, a police intelligence platform.

At the time, assistant chief constable Jim Colwell said: "The ability to easily access and share information across county boundaries is crucial for us to identify threat, risk and harm and bring offenders to justice."

Police further east along the coastline, in Dorset, were also set to use the system. "As an internationally tried and tested platform, the implementation of NicheRMS leads Devon and Cornwall and Dorset Police into the next phase of 21st century policing," Colwell said.

Yet in October 2022, His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) down-graded Devon & Cornwall Police's performance, saying it was "inadequate" when measured against three of nine criteria. It said the police force's recording of data about crime was one of the three inadequate areas.

His Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said: "I have concerns about Devon and Cornwall Police's performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime – particularly about the accuracy of its crime recording."

In a statement to news outlet iNews, a police force spokesperson said: "Due to the implementation of our new operational system, Niche, we have not been able to provide the data for the last quarter of the 12 month period to the Home Office/ONS.

"As a result, our data will not be shown in the data tables. This is not unusual during the transition to new systems and the ONS has a standard caveat that they will apply to the data tables to explain the absence of our data," they said.

The Register has contacted Devon & Cornwall Police for comment. ®

Updated to add on June 2, 2023

Devon and Cornwall Police said in a statement that the data lapse was "not unusual during the transition to new systems and the ONS has a standard caveat that they will apply to the data tables to explain the absence of our data."

The spokesperson went on to say that the police expect "to report force level data to ONS in time for the July release," so, ultimately, the crime statistics will be accurate.

"Experience from other forces suggest that this period of alignment takes around six months to resolve. ONS understand this and we have their full agreement to exercise caution in reporting our data. Our officers have been recording crime as usual and we expect to provide backdated data covering the March quarter alongside the scheduled July data release."

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