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The force says...

Dorset is a largely rural county with only 6.3% of its total area classified as urban and approximately half of the county designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of special scientific interest. Although it is one of the few counties in England not to have a motorway, there are three trunk roads and a total of 3,332 miles of road.

In addition to approximately 90 miles of coastline there are three major ports in Dorset, handling passenger and freight traffic to the Channel Islands and the Continent. Bournemouth International Airport serves around 660,000 passengers each year.

People are attracted to Dorset to live, learn, work, relax or retire. Nearly a third of the resident population, which totals just over 750,000, is aged 60 or over. Dorset has approximately 11 million day visitors annually. The Index of Multiple Deprivation identifies urban areas of Boscombe, Weymouth and West Howe as having a particular concentration of the most deprived areas nationally.

Whilst the urban conurbations have challenges, so too do the rural areas. Thefts of livestock, agricultural equipment, metal and fuel are real issues. During 2014, it is estimated that rural crime cost £5million in the South West region.

In 2014/15 the force had 2,329 officers and staff, a reduction from 2,693 in 2009/10.
In 2014/15 the force dealt with almost 175,000 calls for service of which over 36,000 were crimes. The force budget for 2015/16 is approximately £110 million.

Although crime has reduced by 25% overall since 2009/10, recently there have been sizeable increases in domestic abuse and sexual offences reflecting increased victim confidence and improved compliance. The force is also combating emerging complex threats of cyber-crime, child sexual abuse and exploitation and dangerous drugs networks.

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

HMIC says...

Dorset Police provides policing services to the county of Dorset. Although there are some areas of deprivation, Dorset is generally affluent. The police force area covers 1,024 square miles with approximately 140 miles of coastline in the south west of England. Around 0.8 million people live in a predominantly rural setting. The area has a number of distinct urban areas, including the towns of Bournemouth, Poole, Weymouth and Dorchester. The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, or travel through the county each year. The transport infrastructure includes air and sea ports.

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 2,493 OAs in Dorset with an average size of 106 hectares which is bigger than the national average of 87 hectares. While the majority (57 percent) of OAs in Dorset 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 towns on the coast and across Dorset 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. Dorset has a median house price of £266,073 which is higher 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 a 64 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 Dorset, one percent of the OAs accounts for 16 percent of the predicted demands for police services – this is 0.2 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 Dorset:

  • the proportion of OAs that are a very high challenge to police based on the predicted level of crime is higher than 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 higher 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 higher than the national level of one percent.

As an indication of the challenge for the police to reach citizens in all parts of Dorset we calculated the average travel time and distance from the central point of the force area to the centre of each of the 2,493 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.

Dorset has 95 miles of trunk roads; the average travel distance of 14 miles (longest 49 miles and shortest 0.25 miles) is lower than the national average of 17 miles but the average travel time of 26 minutes is lower than the national average of 30 minutes. This demonstrates the size of Dorset 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 Dorset 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.