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Kent Police have been accused of being more interested in chasing targets than helping victims, in a report by a police watchdog which found one in 10 of the crimes it sampled were under-recorded.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) concluded that an institutional bias existed in the force towards chasing numerical targets for solving crime and that led to some officers focusing on categories of crime which had the best chance of a quick and easy resolution.
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent Ann Barnes, who commissioned the report in February said: "I despair for some of the victims of crime who have been very poorly served, as every single victim of crime should receive a quality service. They must be at the heart of the policing service in Kent.''
HMIC found the force had under-recorded approximately one in every 10 crimes in a sample it reviewed.
Crimes were also not being resolved in accordance with national requirements and guidance, with a small number of cases found where cautions had been issued for serious crimes, it said. The inspectorate also found cases where penalty notices had been inappropriately issued to people with significant offending histories.
HMIC explained the institutional bias meant that resources were sometimes diverted from tackling other crimes - some of which have far greater impacts on the people and communities in the county.
This approach does not contravene the Home Office Counting Rules, but it is against the spirit of them, the report said.
HMIC acknowledged that the force had recognised the issue of a target-driven culture as a major problem and the chief constable, Ian Learmonth, has expressed determination to change it.
Zoe Billingham, HM Inspector of Constabulary for the Eastern Region, said: "Our inspection has found that appreciably more needs to be done by Kent Police to make sure its crime figures are as accurate as they should be.
"The force has been addressing the issue of crime recording and has made significant progress in this area. However, we found that the force had under-recorded approximately one in every 10 crimes of the sample we examined - this means some victims are not getting the service they deserve.
"We are confident that, given the improvements made so far and the commitment of the chief constable, the force will respond positively to the issues raised in this report and take steps to improve the accuracy of crime recording in Kent.''
PCC Ann Barnes has asked HMIC to return in December 2013 to reinvestigate the crime recording figures and to see what progress has been made.
Kent Police say they have held an internal review into the performance culture within Kent Police and that "work is already under way to change the performance culture within the force to focus more keenly on the quality of service delivery as opposed to target-chasing.''