More about this area

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The force says...

The force polices an area covering 3,961 square miles, encompassing over 700 miles of coastline, 500 square-miles of moorland and over 13,500 miles of roads, 6.6% of the total road length in England and Wales. Within this large geographical area, a resident population of 1.7 million live in 722,300 households who are generally older than the national profile (more people aged 65+). Minority ethnic groups make up 5% of the resident population.

The population significantly increases with around 11 million visitors to the area during the year, the largest of any other force in the country. Although supporting the local economy, this increases demand on our services and infrastructure in the summer months by 13% – 25%. In July and August, around 6% of victims of crime within the force are non-residents. Additionally, 70,000 students impact upon the demand for services. Their demographic is changing with a greater international student intake at local universities.

Plymouth, Torquay and Exeter are urban centres of significant size with the remainder of the population spread between smaller urban clusters, rural towns and villages, and remote, isolated moorland hamlets. There are significant pockets of deprivation and overdependence on seasonal and part-time jobs.

The workforce is 14% smaller than it was in 2009/10 with fewer police officers per 1,000 population than the average force in England & Wales. The budget for 2015/16 was £280million.

In the last year the force dealt with 791,000 calls for service and recorded over 80,000 crimes. A reduction in crime of 13% since 2009/10 masks changes within the crime picture. The level and complexity of crime has increased with particular increases in domestic abuse and sexual offences. The force mission of detect and prevent harm, protect the vulnerable and reduce crime is at the centre of policing delivery into the future.

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 of £214,710 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 73 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 Devon and Cornwall, one percent of the OAs accounts for 15 percent of the predicted demands for police services – this is 0.1 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 Devon and Cornwall:

  • 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 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 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 386 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 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.