Kent Police has been criticised in a new report which says the number of crimes it solves is "unacceptably low".
The findings show the force “requires improvement” in how it investigates crime and responding to the public.
A senior officer acknowledged the report's findings and said they are being acted upon while the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner has vowed to scrutinise future performance.
While five areas of classification have been rated as “good”, four fall short - two “require improvement” and two are “adequate”.
The Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy (PEEL) report – compiled by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary – grades the force "good" in most categories, including preventing crime, disrupting serious organised crime and protecting vulnerable people
While Kent Police provides innovative support to vulnerable victims of crime, there are other less favourable PEEL findings, particularly victims of crime.
The report says: “The force isn’t always achieving acceptable outcomes for victims of crime.
“The number of crimes it solves following investigation is unacceptably low. The force needs to better understand the barriers to successfully bringing offenders to justice. It needs to achieve better outcomes for victims.”
The report said it "requires improvement” in how the force responds to the public as it failed to hit targets of responding to 90% of 999 calls by a large margin – more than 20% off the pace.
The PEEL report notes: “Failing to answer calls quickly enough can mean losing both public confidence and investigative opportunities.”
The force needs to address the issue of reducing the number of non-emergency 101 calls abandoned by the caller because there is no response.
In the year to March 2023, around a third of all callers gave up compared to 5% for forces with a switchboard.
The report acknowledges a severe problem in shortages of call handlers with police management forced to move 35 officers from neighbourhood duties to cover.
Kent must improve consistency in assessing the correct crime classifications, inspectors found.
In around of one-third of 104 cases, police had not assigned the correct crime classification outcome, which could affect the progress of cases and charging.
Kent was graded as “adequate” in managing offenders and vetting and tackling workforce corruption.
The HM inspector Roy Wilsher noted: "I am pleased with the performance of Kent Police in keeping people safe, reducing crime and giving victims an effective service. But in order to provide a consistently good service, it needs to improve in some areas."
The Inspector added: "Kent Police has an average level of funding per 1,000 population in England and Wales. But the use of this funding doesn’t always result in a good service for the public in some important areas, such as its initial response to calls.
"The force doesn’t always answer emergency and non-emergency calls in a timely way.
"And it doesn’t always attend calls for service as quickly as it should. The force has tried to address these problems by increasing the number of call handlers and by improving the range of alternative ways to contact the force. But it needs to do more to meet the public’s needs."
Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott, who is seeking-re-election in May, said: “I acknowledge that there is still some work to do to improve outcomes for victims of crime.
"As demonstrated at my own performance meetings, I continue to hold the force to account for delivering their responsibilities under the victims' code, getting the right outcomes and bringing offenders to justice.
"And I will carry on scrutinising the rollout of the neighbourhood policing model so that it delivers for local residents.
“Overall, the inspection shows a more positive outlook for Kent Police than before and I will continue to drive forward the improvements that are needed.”
Deputy Chief Constable Peter Ayling said: "Kent Police is a high-performing force which has been recognised as ‘good’ in the majority of categories inspected. This included vital areas such as the prevention of crime, protecting vulnerable people, and tackling serious and organised crime.
"The investment of more police officers into a new Neighbourhood Policing Model is also positively noted by the Inspectorate, which is the bedrock of how we police the county. However, we acknowledge there are areas where improvements could be made – and are being made.
"We continuously review the way we investigate crime to ensure victims are receiving the best possible service and offenders are being brought to justice; our charge rate for victim-based crime has already risen by two per cent above that stated in the inspection report and is above the national average."