At 477 square miles and with 664,500 people Bedfordshire is one of England’s smallest (yet most diverse), counties and faces complex crime challenges more usually seen in large metropolitan cities.
More than half of its residents live in its largest towns Luton and Bedford which have diverse and often transient communities, alongside smaller market towns and rural parishes.
London Luton Airport (the UK’s fifth busiest), handled nearly 16 million passengers in 2016. The M1 and A1(M) motorways traverse the county. Two principle railway lines connect people with the heart of London in less than an hour.
Bedfordshire has a complex mix of volume crime, serious crimes, drugs, gangs and terrorism threats. Every day our officers meet threats, harm and risks like those in large cities. In the year to December 2017 the force recorded over 46,800 crimes (an increase of nine per cent), and answered more than 487,000 calls for service (up over 10 per cent).
Among all English police forces, Bedfordshire receives one of the lowest Government grants per head of population, and is in the lowest quartile for budget and police officers per head of population, and for council tax levels.
We employ in the region of 1,060 Police Officers, 756 police staff and 65 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).
Due to our limited resources, we have a Control Strategy to prioritise how we respond to crime - with protecting vulnerable people the primary focus. There is also a desire to reduce the increasing demand through 999 and 101 calls by offering digital solutions and signposting people to more appropriate agencies.
However, despite our relatively small size, we lead joint protective services (Armed Policing, Dogs, Roads Policing, Major Crime etc) for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire and are the lead force for the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit – a co-ordinated approach from the seven forces to tackle serious and organised crime, and terrorism.
Recently there has been a push by the force to reintroduce a community policing model to engage with residents and prevent crime by early intervention and problem-solving before issues escalate. You can find out what’s happening in your area here.
Alongside local issues, policing nationally faces new and emerging crime such as cyber-crime, child sexual exploitation and ‘county line’ drug supply and associated criminality.
Chief Constable Jon Boutcher talking to Radio 4 about funding
Chief Constable Jon Boutcher talking on Sky News about funding