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The force says...

Thames Valley Police is the largest non-metropolitan police force in England and Wales.

The Force polices the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, and serves a diverse population of urban and rural areas and growing minority ethnic communities. More than 2.2 million (2011) people live in the region including a large student population – an increase of 8.5% over 10 years, with a further six million travelling into or visiting Thames Valley each year.

Thames Valley Police also works alongside a number of partners: the region borders nine forces comprising five regions, contains 18 local authorities at district, county and unitary level, and partners with nine safeguarding and nine health and well-being boards.

Between 2009/10 and 2014/15, recorded crime reduced by 34% (up 3.3% in 12 months to September 2015) whilst the number of reported incidents remained static. Domestic burglary in particular has fallen significantly (down over 16% in 12 months to September 2015).

Reductions in crime and anti-social behaviour were offset by rises in public safety and welfare incidents and transport related incidents. The recording of sexual offences also increased significantly by 44% (12 months to September 2015). Investigating abuse is demanding and complex, however safeguarding and protecting vulnerable people is a key priority for the force and its partners.

The force is also focused on increased threats from organised crime groups, particularly fraud and cyber crime and is working with partners and the community to prevent, disrupt and investigate such threats.

Thames Valley workforce costs are below average per head of population (£136 versus £140). The force delivered £58.9m savings between 2010 and 2015 whilst increasing the number of frontline police officers, compared to 12% officer reductions nationally.

Despite the financial challenges and changing policing landscape, victim satisfaction remains high (88.6% – June 2015).

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 2.3 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 of £302,170 which is higher 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 98 percent difference between lowest and highest prices within the force area, suggesting that there are both areas of poverty as well as affluence.

The predicted number of incidents for each OA varies considerably. In Thames Valley, one percent of the OAs accounts for 15 percent of the predicted demands for police services – this is 0.7 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 Thames Valley:

  • 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 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 326 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 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.