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The force says...

In 2011 West Mercia Police entered into a strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police. The alliance between West Mercia and Warwickshire has enabled both organisations to achieve budget reductions by operating more efficiently. West Mercia Police has achieved total savings requirement of £36.9m over the last spending review period and has set a balanced budget, finding further savings of £6.4m in 2015/16. The Alliance has to find a further £34.3m in savings by 2019/20.

In March 2015, West Mercia had 2,014 police officers, 209 police community support officers and 1,458 police staff. The chief constable works closely with his counterparts in Warwickshire Police. To facilitate joint working the forces have developed a new shared vision and set of values which provide a clear direction to our workforce and our stakeholders on how the forces will operate.

West Mercia covers three unitary councils of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and the two tier county of Worcestershire. There are 1.2 million people living in West Mercia. The area covers 7,428 square kilometres making it the fourth largest police area in England and Wales and has both densely populated urban conurbations and sparsely populated rural areas.

There are pockets of social deprivation with one borough in the top 40% most deprived local authorities in England and Wales.

The level of recorded crime in West Mercia increased in 2014/15. This rise has predominantly been due to increases in sexual offences and violent crime due to a combination of increased victim confidence and improvements in crime recording. These changes reflect national trends.

The increase in the reporting of sexual offences and violent crime represents a changing profile of crime that the force is addressing, through an increase of resources in the protecting vulnerable people department and the development of a pathfinder to introduce a new investigation team structure.

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

HMIC says...

West Mercia Police provides policing services to the areas of Herefordshire Shropshire, Telford and the Wrekin and Worcestershire. The police force area covers 2,860 square miles in the west of England. There are areas of deprivation and areas of affluence in West Mercia. Around 1.2 million people live in a predominantly rural setting. It has a number of relatively small urban areas that include the cities of Worcester, Hereford and Telford. 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 4,020 OAs in West Mercia with an average size of 184 hectares which is much bigger than the national average of 87 hectares. Almost half (46 percent) of OAs in West Mercia are relatively small at under 10 hectares, a sizable proportion (24 percent) are extremely large in size (over 100 hectares) indicating the mixture of urban and rural localities. The smallest OAs are concentrated in Worcester and the other towns in West Mercia with the largest spread across the extensive 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. West Mercia has a median house price of £203,467 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 80 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 West Mercia, one percent of the OAs accounts for 15 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 West Mercia:

  • 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 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 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 West Mercia we calculated the average travel time and distance from the central point of the force area to the centre of each of the 4,020 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.

West Mercia has 190 miles of motorways and trunk roads; the average travel distance of 27 miles (longest 64 miles and shortest 2 miles) and the average travel time of 48 minutes are higher than the respective national averages of 17 miles and 30 minutes. This demonstrates the size and complexity of West Mercia.

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 West Mercia 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.