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The force says...

Thames Valley Police is the largest non-metropolitan police force in England and Wales, covering the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The area comprises urban conurbations such as Reading and Slough, large rural areas including West Berkshire, growing towns such as Milton Keynes and Aylesbury, and one of the country’s most well-known university towns – Oxford. Populated by diverse communities of more than two million residents, a further six million visitors come to the area each year. In addition, there are more miles of motorway than any other British force.

Thames Valley is policed by 4,132 police officers, 2,758 police staff and 523 volunteers, working in partnership with 18 local authorities at district, county and unitary level. Bordered by nine other forces, Thames Valley is within the South East Region and has strong co-operative arrangements, particularly with Hampshire. Thames Valley is the lead force for the Regional Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime commands.

The twelve-month period 2015/6 saw 562,622 calls for service and 129,444 recorded crimes. The Force routinely manages significant events such as Royal Ascot, Reading Rock Festival and Henley Regatta, whilst also dealing with exceptional major investigations and incidents, such as the collapse of Didcot power station. The changing crime landscape has seen increases in high-risk, high-harm and complex offending targeting vulnerable people including child sexual assault, both recent and historic, adults at risk, modern slavery, domestic abuse and missing people. The Force is committed to transformational change and has a clear focus on priority areas, particularly vulnerability. It is committed to adopting digital technology as an enabler and to improving operational services for the public. Strong partnerships have contributed to managing increased demand within continuing budgetary constraints. This is reflected in victim satisfaction levels, which remain above the national average at 88%.

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

HMIC says...

Thames Valley Police provides policing services to the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The police force area covers 2,216 square miles in the south east of England. Although there are some areas of deprivation, Thames Valley is generally affluent. Around 2.4 million people mainly live in the urban centres which include the city of Oxford and the towns of Milton Keynes, Reading, Aylesbury, Maidenhead and Slough. The resident population is ethnically diverse, with 15 percent from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, commute into, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes major rail stations.

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 7,094 OAs in Thames Valley with an average size of 81 hectares which is smaller than the national average of 87 hectares. While the majority (57 percent) of OAs in Thames Valley are relatively small at under 10 hectares, a smaller proportion (14 percent) are extremely large in size (over 100 hectares) indicating the mixture of urban and rural localities. The smallest OAs are concentrated in the many towns of Thames Valley 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. Thames Valley has a median house price, based on the OAs that have had a property transaction within the last 12 months, of £352,167 which is higher than the median of England and Wales (£230,358). Thames Valley has 0.4 percent of its OAs within the lowest 10 percent of house prices nationally, while 51.8 percent of OAs are within the top 10 percent of house prices nationally (and 20.3 percent of OAs are within the top 1 percent). This suggests that there are large areas of acute affluence and high house prices, 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 3.4 percent of the very high challenge areas nationally are in Thames Valley. The highest challenge one percent of OAs in the force account for 8.4 percent of Thames Valley’s predicted incidents, these predicted demands are likely to occur in only 1.9 percent of the total area of the force.

Within Thames Valley:

  • 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 Thames Valley we calculated the average travel time and distance from the central point of the force area to the centre of each of the 7,094 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.

Thames Valley has 208 miles of motorways and trunk roads; the average travel distance of 25 miles (longest 53 miles and shortest 2 miles) and the average travel time of 38 minutes from the centre of the force to each OA are higher than the respective national averages of 17 miles and 30 minutes. This demonstrates the size and complexity of Thames Valley.

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 Thames Valley 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.