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31 January 2014, 14:45
Kent Police has made "significant improvements" to crime recording following a damning report last year by a watchdog which found around one in 10 crimes were under-recorded.
An interim report published today by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said the force's focus "must now be on ensuring the progress is sustained".
In June last year, HMIC found that an institutional bias existed in the force towards chasing numerical targets for solving crime.
It was said that led to some officers focusing on categories of crime which had the best chance of a quick and easy resolution.
Crimes were also not resolved in accordance with national requirements and guidance, with a small number of cases found where cautions had been issued for serious crimes.
The inspectorate also found cases where penalty notices had been inappropriately issued to people with significant offending histories.
A revisit by HMIC five months later found Kent Police had taken steps to improve the accuracy of crime recording and developed an action plan.
Inspectors found substantially greater accuracy in crime recording, although HMIC found more needed to be done on training and raising awareness of the force's new approach.
Zoe Billingham, HM Inspector of Constabulary for the eastern region, said: "Kent Police has responded positively to the concerns raised in our inspection last year, and is making progress against the plan they have developed in response.
"Our revisit found that the force has made significant improvements.
"However, changes to culture take time to implement, and it remains too early to say whether the improvements can be sustained long-term.
"HMIC will return to the force in 2014 as part of our wider crime data integrity inspection, to assess whether the people of Kent can have lasting confidence in the force's crime figures."
Kent police and crime commissioner, Ann Barnes, who commissioned HMIC last year to conduct an inspection over the force's crime figures, welcomed the latest findings.
She said the force's crime recording culture must not "slip back to the bad old days". She said: "I am now confident that the people of Kent can have trust in their crime figures.
"Kent Police didn't bury their heads in the sand but tackled head on the difficult findings from the first inspection.
"Kent is the first force to be independently inspected and it's now time for all police forces in the country to take an independent look at their own crime figures. All local communities must have trust in their forces' crime recording figures.
"Kent Police must now sustain this high level of accuracy and I expect the new chief constable to make this his constant focus now and in the future.
"It is imperative that the force's culture on crime recording does not slip back to the bad old days."