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The force says...

At 477 square miles and with 644,000 people Bedfordshire is one of England’s smallest yet most diverse counties. 23% of residents are from minority ethnic backgrounds. Few towns outside London host greater ethnic diversity than Luton and Bedford. These contrast with market towns and rural parishes. Bedfordshire’s population grew by over 8% since 2001.

London Luton Airport (the UK’s fifth busiest) handled 14 million passengers in 2016. The M1 and A1(M) motorways traverse the county. Two principal railway lines connect people with the heart of London in less than an hour.

Bedfordshire has a complex mix of volume crime, serious crimes, drugs, gangs and terrorism threats. Every day police officers meet threats, harm and risks like those in large cities. In the year to December 2016 the Force recorded over 80,000 crimes (up 6%) and answered over 442,000 calls for service (up 15%). The Force is encouraging reporting of safeguarding related crimes such as domestic abuse, which are frequently more complex to investigate. In 2016 the Force increased resources for vulnerable children and adults, child exploitation, missing people and domestic abuse, without reducing community policing levels.

Bedfordshire Police’s community, response and investigation teams serve the unitary authorities of Luton, Bedford and Central Bedfordshire from two operational hubs. Strategic leadership of regional intelligence and investigation helps the Force meet risks linked to extremism and organised crime.

Compared to 2010/11 the force has reduced officer numbers by 13%, whilst increasing the proportion in frontline roles to 93%. Among all English police forces, Bedfordshire receives one of the lowest Government grants per head of population. It is in the lowest quartile for budget and police officers per head of population, and for council tax levels. Bedfordshire is addressing its challenges through radical internal change and service-leading collaborations with neighbouring and regional police forces.

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

HMIC says...

Bedfordshire Police provides policing services to the county of Bedfordshire. The police force area covers 477 square miles in the south east of England. Although there are some areas of deprivation, Bedfordshire is generally affluent. Around 0.7 million people mainly live in the urban centres which include the towns of Luton and Bedford. The resident population is ethnically very diverse, with 23 percent from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and is increased by university students and the large numbers who travel through the county each year. The transport infrastructure includes a major 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 1,885 OAs in Bedfordshire with an average size of 66 hectares which is smaller than the national average of 87 hectares. While the majority (65 percent) of OAs in Bedfordshire are relatively small at under 10 hectares, a small 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 Luton and Bedford 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. Bedfordshire has a median house price, based on the OAs that have had a property transaction within the last 12 months, of £251,042 which is higher than the median of England and Wales (£230,358). Bedfordshire has 0.5 percent of its OAs within the lowest 10 percent of house prices nationally, while 16.4 percent of OAs are within the top 10 percent of house prices nationally (and 4.1 percent of OAs are within the top 1 percent). This suggests that there are areas of affluence and high house price, with a very small proportion of lower value housing and deprivation.

The demands for police services are not the same in every area of England and Wales. Our analysis has revealed that the socio-demographic characteristics of an area influence the demands for police services in that area.

In every police force, there is a concentration of predicted demands in a small number of its OAs. Taking England and Wales as a whole the most challenging 1,811 (1 percent) of these account for 10.8 percent of all the predicted incidents.  We have designated these areas of very high challenge and found that they are characterised by a high concentration of people living, working, socialising or travelling in the area.  Features which both cause and/or indicated a concentration of people include the number of commercial premises, including licensed premises, fast food premises, public transport and social deprivation.  In some areas, these features are in combination.

Some 0.9 percent of the very high challenge areas nationally are in Bedfordshire. The highest-challenge one percent of OAs in the force account for 8.9 percent of Bedfordshire’s predicted incidents, these predicted demands are likely to occur in only 1.4 percent of the total area of the force.

Within Bedfordshire:

  • the proportion of OAs that are a very high challenge to police based on the predicted level of incidents 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 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 broadly in line with the national level of one percent;
  • the proportion of OAs that are very high challenge to police for the predicted level of emergency and priority calls for assistance at incidents 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 at crimes 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 Bedfordshire we calculated the average travel time and distance from the central point of the force area to the centre of each of the 1,885 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.

Bedfordshire has 68 miles of motorways and trunk roads; the average travel distance of 11 miles (longest 28 miles and shortest 0.14 miles) and the average travel time of 23 minutes from the centre of the force to each OA are lower than the respective national averages of 17 miles and 30 minutes. This demonstrates the size of Bedfordshire 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 Bedfordshire 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.