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The force says...

Avon and Somerset Constabulary covers over 1,844 square miles and is one of the largest forces in England and Wales. It stretches from Somerset to South Gloucestershire, encompassing extensive rural areas, coastline, holiday and market towns through to busy city centres including Bath and Bristol, one of England’s eight core cities, is intersected by the M4 and M5 and major rail routes from London to Wales and the South West, and is home to Bristol International Airport and Avonmouth Docks.

An increasingly diverse population of around 1.65 million people presents new challenges in keeping abreast of cultural needs and ensuring equality of access to policing for all. Glastonbury Festival, one of Europe’s largest festivals, is one of the force’s most significant events.

Since 1 April 2010, full time equivalent police officers numbers have dropped by 448 to 2,693. At the same time, the proportion of officers in frontline policing roles have risen from 90% in 2010 to 93%. Today the total number of police officers and staff is 5,050 including 357 police community support officers. Our revenue budget has reduced by £53million since the 2010 comprehensive spending review.

Demand for police services grows ever more complex. Traditional crimes may have fallen but demand has not; in the 12 months to August 2015, recorded crimes for child protection rose by 25%, safeguarding adults 141%, missing people investigations 33%, domestic abuse 20% and child sexual exploitation 53%. The complex investigative and safeguarding demands arising from this informed the development of a new operating model and led us to a fresh approach in our prioritisation and deployment of resources, based on the risk, threat and harm to victims and the wider community. To maintain high-quality services in light of these challenges we are collaborating extensively with partners and other forces across the south west.

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

HMIC says...

Avon and Somerset Constabulary provides policing services to the areas of Bristol, Somerset and South Gloucestershire. The police force area covers 1,844 square miles with approximately 103 miles of coastline in the south west of England. Although there are some areas of deprivation, Avon and Somerset is generally affluent. Around 1.65million people mainly live in the urban centres which include the cities of Bristol and Bath and the towns of Weston-super-Mare, Taunton and Yeovil. The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, commute into, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes major rail stations and an airport.

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 4,456 OAs in Avon and Somerset with an average size of 91 hectares which is bigger than the national average of 87 hectares. While the majority (61 percent) of OAs in Avon and Somerset are relatively small at under 10 hectares, a smaller proportion (14 percent) are extremely large in size (over 100 hectares) indicating the mixture of urban and rural localities. The smallest OAs are concentrated in Bristol and Bath 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. Avon and Somerset has a median house price of £226,705 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 81 percent difference between low and high prices within the force area, suggesting that there are both areas of affluence and poverty.

The predicted number of incidents for each OA varies considerably. In Avon and Somerset, one percent of the OAs accounts for 15 percent of the predicted demands for police services – this is 0.3 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 Avon and Somerset:

  • 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 broadly in line than 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 Avon and Somerset we calculated the average travel time and distance from the central point of the force area to the centre of each of the 4,456 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.

Avon and Somerset has 264 miles of motorways and trunk roads; the average travel distance of 19 miles (longest 76 miles and shortest 0.6 miles) and the average travel time of 37 minutes are higher than the respective national averages of 17miles and 30 minutes. This demonstrates the size of Avon and Somerset 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 Avon and Somerset 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.