Stacey Rothwell, Kent Police
In 2020 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Service (HMICFRS) wrote a report titled ‘A call for help’, which said that call volumes were increasing in number and complexity, and that public demand was in danger of overwhelming the police service. HMICFRS was particularly concerned that beyond the calls most urgent in nature, police forces are struggling to meet demand. One area of particular concern for forces is domestic abuse – in an average 24-hour period there are around 3,100 domestic abuse (DA) calls received in force control rooms across England and Wales. It was within this context that Kent Police sought to robustly evaluate a new rapid video response (RVR) to establish if it could be a viable additional service offering for victims reporting domestic abuse from a safe, secure place when the offender was absent.
Kent Police specifically asked: “can police increase victim satisfaction and improve efficiency by providing an optional immediate video response from a uniformed police constable to domestic abuse victims, when their offenders are not present, rather than scheduling a delayed face-to-face police attendance?”
Kent Police ran a randomised control trial (RCT) to evaluate RVR in partnership with the Cambridge Centre for Evidence Based Policing. The trial accepted 517 domestic abuse victims who called into the force control room, wanted to participate, and were identified as eligible for the trial as they were in a safe place and able to communicate via video. Half of these victims were randomly allocated to receive the RVR response, while half received the usual traditional delayed physical response (either awaiting physical attendance or a scheduled appointment with an officer). Those who received the RVR service were instantly connected to a specialist domestic abuse RVR police constable over secure GoodSAM video technology.
Having been connected with an RVR officer, this officer completed the “first response” as defined by the College of Policing. This involved speaking to the victim to understand what had happened and allow for the recording of crimes, the safeguarding of the victim and their children and the securing of evidence.
To understand if the service improved, a victim satisfaction survey was conducted 10 days after the call. This captured the opinions of victims who received both RVR and business as usual responses across a number of dimensions including; their level of satisfaction, their confidence and trust in Kent police and the level of anxiety both at the time, and ten days later. 80 per cent of victims were successfully contacted and agreed to give their views. Kent Police was also interested in police officer effectiveness, so officers’ journeys were tracked to understand how responding by video improved police efficiency. Finally, all trial cases were reviewed to compare police actions and outcomes between those that received RVR and those that got the business-as-usual response.
The RCT design allowed overall satisfaction of all victims to be assessed as well as the satisfaction of just the female victims of intimate partner violence, an important group in the context of violence against women and girls (VAWG). Victims who received RVR were equally satisfied overall, while female victims of intimate DA (who made up 69 per cent of callers) reported increased levels of satisfaction at 89 per cent, compared to 78 per cent for the standard delayed in person service offering (a statistically significant finding).
Those who got RVR received a faster response, taking just three minutes for the victim to begin speaking to an officer, compared to approximately 33 hours for those who received the standard physical, delayed, service offering. Further efficiency benefits were achieved as RVR officers took on average two hours and two minutes per case versus three hours and 21 minutes when a physical response was provided, a saving of one hour and 23 minutes of officer time per incident. These savings were due, primarily, to RVR officers speaking to victims one on one, while traditional physical responses saw two officers arrive to speak to the victim. RVR was able to undertake the same sorts of tasks as done in person including, statement taking and the seizure of digital evidence. Interestingly there were 50 per cent more arrests during the life of an RVR investigation compared to the traditional response group.
As a result of the findings from the trial, Kent Police now provide an optional RVR service offering for victims of domestic abuse when they call for help, resourced by a domestic abuse hub. Of course, if victims do not want RVR or police deem the circumstances to be unsafe or unsuitable then those victims will continue to receive an in-person police response to their calls for help.