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The force says...

The force polices one of the largest geographical areas in the country, with an area covering 3,961 square miles including 700 miles of coastline, 500 square miles of moorland and over 13,500 miles of roads. Nearly 30% of the population of 1.7 million is 60 or over. Plymouth, Torquay, Exeter and Truro are urban centres of significant size with the remainder of the population spread between smaller urban clusters, rural and seaside towns and villages and isolated hamlets.  There are significant pockets of deprivation and dependence on seasonal and part time work.

To provide the highest levels of service, improve operational flexibility and efficiency, the force has a well-developed strategic alliance with Dorset and strong working partnerships with other agencies and forces. There are 10 local authorities in Devon and Cornwall which adds complexity to delivering local policing.

As a popular holiday destination the population significantly increases with over 10 million staying visits and 50 million day visits a year.  Although supporting the local economy, this increases demand on our services and infrastructure. This summer the force has also been required to police the badger cull and a major operation linked to Northern Ireland terrorism.

In 2015/16 the force dealt with 955,340 calls for service and recorded over 77,000 crimes. Whilst crime has reduced by 3.9% since 2014/15, the complexity of crime has increased with particular increases in violent crime and sexual offences reflecting increased victim confidence and improved recording.  There are increasing complex threats such as cybercrime, modern day slavery and child sexual abuse and exploitation.

Overall the workforce is 3.5% smaller than it was at 31 March 2015. Whilst Devon and Cornwall is one of the safest places to live in England and Wales, the increased national terrorist threat has required the force to increase numbers of firearms officers.

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

HMIC says...

Devon and Cornwall Police provides policing services to the counties of Devon and Cornwall including the Isles of Scilly. The police force area covers 3,965 square miles with approximately 730 miles of coastline in the south west of England. Although there are some areas of deprivation, Devon and Cornwall is generally affluent. Around 1.7 million people live in a predominantly rural setting. The area has distinct, relatively small urban areas that include the cities of Exeter and Plymouth, as well as the towns of Torquay, Newquay and St Ives. The resident population is increased by university students and the very large numbers who visit, socialise in, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure also includes major rail stations, 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 5,606 OAs in Devon and Cornwall with an average size of 87 hectares which is the same as the national average of 87 hectares. While half (50 percent) of the OAs in Devon and Cornwall are relatively small at under 10 hectares, a fifth (21 percent) are extremely large in size (over 100 hectares) indicating the mixture of urban and rural localities. The smallest OAs are concentrated in Exeter, Plymouth and the numerous towns throughout Devon and Cornwall 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. Devon and Cornwall has a median house price, based on the OAs that have had a property transaction within the last 12 months, of £214,181 which is lower than the median of England and Wales (£230,358). Devon and Cornwall has 1.4 percent of its OAs within the lowest 10 percent of house prices nationally, while 14.3 percent of OAs are within the top 10 percent of house prices nationally (and 3.2 percent of OAs are within the top 1 percent). This suggests that there are areas of affluence and high house price, with a 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 1.5 percent of the very high challenge areas nationally are in Devon and Cornwall. The highest-challenge one percent of OAs in the force account for 8.1 percent of Devon and Cornwall’s predicted incidents, these predicted demands are likely to occur in only 0.2 percent of the total area of the force.

Within Devon and Cornwall:

  • the proportion of OAs that are a very high challenge to police based on the predicted level of incidents is very low compared 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 Devon and Cornwall we calculated the average travel time and distance from the central point of the force area to the centre of each of the 5,606 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.

Devon and Cornwall has 240 miles of motorways and trunk roads; the average travel distance of 43 miles (longest 268 miles and shortest 0.5 miles) and the average travel time of 67 minutes from the centre of the force to each OA are much higher than the respective national averages of 17 miles and 30 minutes. This demonstrates the size and complexity of Devon and Cornwall 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 Devon and Cornwall 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.