More about this area

The logo of Durham Constabulary

The force says...

Durham Constabulary force area covers 936 square miles serving a residential population of 618,800, including a university population of 17,500. Durham Cathedral is a world heritage site bringing in many visitors. The geography and demographics are varied, made up of urban and rural communities, some affluent and some with significant deprivation issues. Minority ethnic groups make up 3% of the resident population. There are 4 prisons operating in the force area, a category A, a category B, a Women’s prison and a Young Offenders Institution.

Durham Constabulary operates on a reduced budget of £114m (2016/17) and has one of the UK’s lowest precepts. Working with 2 local authorities and many other partners, the force demonstrates robust financial management in exploring innovative and forward-thinking ways to reduce demand through problem solving, collaboration and community engagement. Victims and the public are placed at the heart of everything we do and victim satisfaction continues to be excellent.

The force operates with 1,153 police officers (including the 20 officers recruited during 2016/2017), 148 Police Community Support Officers, 966 staff, 88 special constables, and volunteers.

In 2015/16 the Force dealt with 176,894 calls for service and investigated 36,512 crimes, an 11% increase from 2014/2015. Demand grows increasingly complex, particularly regarding historical sexual offences, domestic abuse, crimes affecting the vulnerable and digital offending.

The force has developed Red Sigma, a bespoke records management and tasking and briefing system which can be accessed remotely to enhance efficiency.

In partnership with Gloucestershire and Essex forces, Durham leads a national project to meet the challenges of policing in a digital world.

The force takes the national lead on diverse programmes such as Checkpoint (reducing reoffending), Mutual Gain (citizens in policing), Staff Survey (attitudes / behaviours), Intervene to Protect a Child (recognition of child abuse) and the Mini Police scheme.

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

HMIC says...

Durham Constabulary provides policing services to the areas of County Durham and Darlington. The police force area covers 936 square miles with approximately 15 miles of coastline in the north east of England. Although there are some highly affluent areas, Durham has a high level of poverty. Around 0.6 million people live in a predominantly rural setting. The area includes the city of Durham and the town of Darlington as well as several smaller towns. 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 2,086 OAs in Durham with an average size of 116 hectares which is bigger than the national average of 87 hectares. While the majority (54 percent) of OAs in Durham are relatively small at under 10 hectares, a smaller 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 Durham, Darlington and numerous small towns 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. Durham has a median house price, based on the OAs that have had a property transaction within the last 12 months, of £100,438 which is lower than the median of England and Wales (£230,358). Durham has 47.0 percent of its OAs within the lowest 10 percent of house prices nationally, while 1.9 percent of OAs are within the top 10 percent of house prices nationally (and 0.4 percent of OAs are within the top 1 percent). This suggests that there are large areas of low value housing and deprivation, with some very small affluent areas of more expensive housing.

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.

0.5 percent of the very high challenge areas nationally are in Durham. The highest challenge one percent of OAs in the force account for 6.1 percent of Durham’s predicted incidents, these predicted demands are likely to occur in only 0.7 percent of the total area of the force.

Within Durham:

  • 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 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;
  • 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 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 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 Durham we calculated the average travel time and distance from the central point of the force area to the centre of each of the 2,086 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.

Durham has 63 miles of motorways and trunk roads; the average travel distance of 13 miles (longest 38 miles and shortest 0.13 miles) and the average travel time of 22.5 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 Durham 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 Durham 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.