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The force says...

Durham Constabulary force area covers approximately 936 square miles, and a population of 618,800; an increase of 4.7% compared with 10 years ago. The largest town is Darlington, which lies in the south of the area. Durham city is home to a both a leading university (student population is over 17,000) and Durham Cathedral, which is a world heritage site attracting over 700,000 visitors per year. The geography and demographics are varied across the force. In the east are the larger industrial and commercial towns, some with significant deprivation issues; the west is predominately rural and sparsely populated.

Durham Constabulary is operating on a reduced budget of £113m (2015/16) with a workforce that is 13% smaller than in 2010. Despite this reduction, the force demonstrates robust financial management and continues to proactively explore innovative ways to reduce demand through problem solving, crime prevention, collaboration with other police forces and public sector services, community engagement and a clear understanding of its demand. Victims are placed at the heart of everything and victim satisfaction is excellent. The force is taking the lead nationally on a number of programmes of work such as Checkpoint (reducing reoffending), Mutual Gain (citizens in policing) and Staff Survey (attitudes and behaviours).

The level of recorded crime in the force area increased by 0.3% in 2014/15; this increase has been due, in part, to Operation Seabrook (the UK’s largest investigation into complex historical cases of sexual abuse), improvements in crime recording and increased confidence in victim reporting. It is expected that this increase will continue in 2015/16 in line with national trends. Resourcing within the organisation has been realigned to manage this changing profile of crime and will continue to be assessed to ensure the force meets the needs of victims and vulnerable people now and in the future.

Disclaimer: the above statement has been prepared by Durham Constabulary. The views and information in it are not necessarily those of HMICFRS.

HMIC says...

Durham Constabulary provides policing services to the areas of County Durham and Darlington. The police force area covers 936 square miles with approximately 15 miles of coastline in the north east of England. Although there are some highly affluent areas, Durham has a high level of poverty. Around 0.6 million people live in a predominantly rural setting. The area includes the city of Durham and the town of Darlington as well as several smaller towns. The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit or travel through the area each year.

England and Wales is made up of over 181,000 small areas known as census output areas (OAs). These have been defined by the Office for National Statistics to group together people with similar characteristics and to include, on average, 125 households. The size of the geographical area covered by each OA varies according to the population density in different parts of the country. The largest OA in England and Wales covers 20,166 hectares, and the smallest less than 0.02 hectares. A football pitch is approximately 0.75 of a hectare.

There are 2,086 OAs in Durham with an average size of 116 hectares which is bigger than the national average of 87 hectares. While the majority (54 percent) of OAs in Durham are relatively small at under 10 hectares, a smaller proportion (12 percent) are extremely large in size (over 100 hectares) indicating the mixture of urban and rural localities. The smallest OAs are concentrated in Durham, Darlington and numerous small towns with the largest spread across the more sparsely populated rural areas.

The advantage of analysis at output area level is that it supports a people-centred approach. Differences in the socio-economic characteristics of people who live in different OAs lead to different behaviours, including the use of public services. These differences are reflected in the information that is collected in large data sets such as the census, the Ordnance Survey (OS) point of interest data and other quasi-economic sources that have been used in this analysis.

HMIC has been working with the London School of Economics to use econometric techniques to statistically model and predict the level of reactive demands for police services in each OA in England and Wales. Using police incident data and several thousand characteristics (variables) drawn from the census data, OS point of interest data and other smaller data sets for each OA, it has been possible to predict the number of incidents for each OA and determine how challenging each OA is likely to be to police. We have also used the house prices from the Land Registry as a proxy indicator of wealth. Durham has a median house price of £111,918 which is lower than the median of England and Wales (£254,549). Excluding the least expensive ten percent and the most expensive ten percent of house prices, there is an 84 percent difference between low and high prices within the force area, suggesting that there are areas of affluence as well as poverty.

The predicted number of incidents for each OA varies considerably. In Durham, one percent of the OAs accounts for 13 percent of the predicted demands for police services – this is 0.7 percent of the total force area.

A concentration of predicted demands in a small number of OAs is a feature of every police force. We have designated these OAs (approximately 1,800 throughout England and Wales) as a very high challenge to police. These areas of very high challenge are characterised by social deprivation or a concentration of commercial premises (including licensed premises), and in some cases both.
Within Durham:

  • the proportion of OAs that are a very high challenge to police based on the predicted level of crime is broadly in line with the national level of one percent;
  • the proportion of OAs that are a very high challenge to police based on the predicted level of anti-social behaviour is broadly in line with the national level of one percent; and
  • the proportion of OAs that are very high challenge to police for the predicted level of emergency and priority calls for assistance is broadly in line with the national level of one percent.

As an indication of the challenge for the police to reach citizens in all parts of Durham we calculated the average travel time and distance from the central point of the force area to the centre of each of the 2,086 OAs. These calculations of distance and time are based on using the road network under normal driving conditions and speeds, and indicate the size of the area and the quality of its road network.

Durham has 101 miles of motorways and trunk roads; the average travel distance of 13 miles (longest 38 miles and shortest 0.13 miles) and the average travel time of 22.5 minutes are lower than the respective national averages of 17 miles and 30 minutes. This demonstrates the size of Durham and the nature of its roads.

While the concentration of demands in a small number of locations (covering a very small area) may be helpful in focusing resources, it is not the totality of demand. The provision of services extends beyond those areas that are a very high challenge to police and includes the least challenging and most remote areas. The challenge of providing services throughout Durham is a function of many things including the size and topography of the area, the road network and how congested the roads are. These considerations influence how police resources are organised and managed – for example, where police officers are based and their working patterns.