More about this area

The logo of West Mercia Police

The force says...

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. Covering 7,428 square kilometres it is 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.

In 2011 West Mercia Police entered into a strategic alliance with Warwickshire Police, which has enabled both organisations to achieve budget reductions by operating more efficiently.

West Mercia Police achieved total savings of £36.9m over the last spending review period and a further £6.4m in 2015/16 and £6.5m in 2016/17. It has set a balanced budget, finding further savings of £10.7m in 2017/18 and has to find further savings of £21.9m by 2020/21.

In March 2016 West Mercia Police had 2,079 police officers, 221 police community support officers and 1,499 police staff.

Recorded crime continued to rise in West Mercia in 2016. This links to increases in sexual and violent crime which reflect national trends.

The chief constable works closely with counterparts in Warwickshire Police, and the forces have developed a shared vision and set of values, with the ambition of being ‘great at protecting the most vulnerable.’ 2016 has seen embedding of a joint transformational change programme – Vision 2020 – to predict and respond to changing demand, improve partnership working, staff skills and bring significant development of ICT infrastructure and equipment. Changes include a new investigative model, new Operations Communications Centres in both forces, development of a single command and control system, an upgrade of the ICT operating platform, mobile and agile working pilots and plans to introduce body-worn video to frontline staff.

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 1.3 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 sizeable 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, based on the OAs that have had a property transaction within the last 12 months, of £201,161 which is lower than the median of England and Wales (£230,358). West Mercia has 4.0 percent of its OAs within the lowest 10 percent of house prices nationally, while 13.2 percent of OAs are within the top 10 percent of house prices nationally (and 2.4 percent of OAs are within the top 1 percent). This suggests that there are large areas of lower value housing and deprivation, with a small proportion of acute affluence and high house prices.

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 1.1 percent of the very high challenge areas nationally are in West Mercia. The highest-challenge one percent of OAs in the force account for 5.7 percent of West Mercia’s predicted incidents, these predicted demands are likely to occur in only 0.4 percent of the total area of the force.

Within West Mercia:

  • the proportion of OAs that are a very high challenge to police based on the predicted level of incidents 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 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 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 lower than 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 208 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 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 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.