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The force says...

Bordering London, Essex covers 1,420 square miles with a 400-mile coastline. The county comprises 75% agricultural land, but there are a number of major urban conurbations, including Basildon, Thurrock and Southend. The current population of Essex is 1.7 million which is estimated to increase to 2 million by 2021. 5.7% of Essex residents are of minority ethnic origin.

Stansted Airport (the UK’s fourth busiest) handled 21 million passengers in the 12 months to March 2015 (16.3% increase) whilst 1 million passengers travelled through Southend Airport.

The London Gateway port at Stanford-le-Hope is part of the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure, and the Port of Harwich provides passenger and freight links to Scandinavia and the Benelux countries.

Essex Police has 1.73 officers per 1,000 head of population and in the year to March 2015 responded to 1,093,886 calls of which 220,447 were emergency calls.

In the five years to the end of March 2015 overall crime in the county decreased by 4.8%. There is particular focus on tackling domestic violence and crimes affecting the most vulnerable. Continuing challenges include counter-terrorism and threats from extremism, tackling serious sexual crime and violent crime. There is also an emergence of gang-related crime, primarily involving the supply of controlled drugs and associated criminality.

Essex Police has the second lowest [council tax] precept of any shire county costing the individual council tax payer 0.95p per week.

An ambitious transformation programme is in place to ensure that the force continues to provide the best possible service whilst managing ongoing budgetary constraints.

There is a strong collaborative relationship with Kent Police and further savings have been delivered through joint provision of support functions and shared specialist units, notably the Joint Serious Crime Directorate. Essex is also one of eight Eastern Region forces currently looking at wider collaborative opportunities.

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

HMIC says...

Essex Police provides policing services to the county of Essex. The police force area covers 1,417 square miles with approximately 400 miles of coastline in the south east of England. Although there are some areas of deprivation, Essex is generally affluent. Around 1.8 million people mainly live in the urban centres that include the city of Chelmsford, as well as the towns of Clacton-on-Sea, Southend-on-Sea and Harlow. The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure also includes a major airport and major 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 5,666 OAs in Essex with an average size of 65 hectares which is smaller than the national average of 87 hectares. While the majority (64 percent) of OAs in Essex are relatively small at under 10 hectares, a smaller proportion (11 percent) are extremely large in size (over 100 hectares) indicating the mixture of urban and rural localities. The smallest OAs are concentrated in Chelmsford and numerous small towns throughout Essex 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. Essex has a median house price of £238,682 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 85 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 Essex, one percent of the OAs accounts for 15 percent of the predicted demands for police services – this is 0.6 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 Essex:

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

As an indication of the challenge for the police to reach citizens in all parts of Essex we calculated the average travel time and distance from the central point of the force area to the centre of each of the 5,666 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.

Essex has 284 miles of motorways and trunk roads; the average travel distance of 18 miles (longest 55 miles and shortest 1 mile) and the average travel time of 32 minutes are higher than the respective national averages of 17 miles and 30 minutes. This demonstrates the size, variety and complexity of Essex 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 Essex 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.