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The force says...

At 476 square miles and with 615,000 people Bedfordshire is one of the smallest and most diverse counties in the country. 22.5 percent of residents are from minority ethnic backgrounds. Few towns outside London have greater ethnic diversity than Luton and Bedford. These contrast with market towns and sparsely populated rural parishes. Bedfordshire’s population has grown by 8.3 percent since 2001.

With 10.5 million passengers in 2014 and connections across Europe and beyond London Luton airport is the UK’s fifth busiest. The M1 and A1(M) motorways pass through the county. Two principle railway lines connect people with the heart of London in less than an hour.

Bedfordshire has a complex mix of serious crimes, drugs, organised crime, gangs and links to terrorism. Every day police officers meet threats, harm and risks like those in large cities. In the twelve months to November 2015 overall recorded crime rose by 2%. Like many police forces, much of this is due to better recording of recent and historic violent and sexual offences. The force is encouraging victims to report under-reported crimes including domestic abuse and rape, and welcomes the 18% increase in these crimes. Priority crimes including burglary and robbery have fallen by 10%.

Bedfordshire Police’s community, response and investigation functions serve the unitary authorities of Luton, Bedford and Central Bedfordshire from two operational hubs. Strategic ownership of regional intelligence and investigation assets helps the force meet risks linked to extremism and organised crime. The force is committed to improving its service to vulnerable people.

Bedfordshire receives one of the lowest financial contributions in the country, in the lowest quartile for budget per head of population, council tax levels and police officers per head of population. 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 0.6 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 of £ 204,842 which is lower than the median of England and Wales (£254,549). Excluding the least expensive ten percent and the most expensive ten percent of house prices, there is a 70 percent difference between low and high prices within the force area, suggesting that there are both areas of affluence and poverty.

The predicted number of incidents for each OA varies considerably. In Bedfordshire, one percent of the OAs accounts for 13 percent of the predicted demands for police services – this is 0.3 percent of the total force area.

A concentration of predicted demands in a small number of OAs is a feature of every police force. We have designated these OAs (approximately 1,800 throughout England and Wales) as a very high challenge to police. These areas of very high challenge are characterised by social deprivation or a concentration of commercial premises (including licensed premises), and in some cases both.

Within Bedfordshire:

  • 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; and
  • the proportion of OAs that are very high challenge to police for the predicted level of emergency and priority calls for assistance 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 109 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 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.