Increases in crime-related demand are hitting some forces harder than others

One way to understand crime-related demands on police forces is to track ‘crime pressure’, a measure of investigative workload representing the number of crimes reported to a force per officer, weighted according to Office for National Statistics estimates of the relative severity of different crimes. Over the past decade years, this measure has risen in every police force in England and Wales – doubling in many places. Crime pressure is now falling due to higher officer numbers, but in almost all forces it remains higher than in 2010.

larger image | annotated R code to produce this chart

Data source: Office for National Statistics, 2021

Crime severity per officer
name 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 change, 2010–21
Lincs 2.3 2.5 2.5 3.1 3.1 3.5 4.1 4.4 5.2 6.3 7.3 5.9 153%
Dorset 4.0 4.1 4.0 4.0 3.9 4.4 5.4 5.4 6.5 7.4 7.1 5.8 45%
Suffolk 3.1 3.1 3.4 3.1 2.8 3.4 4.6 4.7 6.2 6.5 6.4 5.2 65%
W Mids 2.8 3.3 3.0 2.8 3.0 3.0 3.4 4.0 5.0 5.8 5.5 5.1 79%
S Yorks 2.6 2.6 2.7 2.7 3.0 3.4 3.8 4.8 5.4 5.8 5.8 4.9 92%
Hants 2.4 2.5 2.5 2.2 2.3 3.3 3.9 4.4 5.3 5.9 5.8 4.7 97%
Cleveland 2.1 2.5 2.8 2.7 2.8 3.5 4.3 4.3 5.4 5.9 5.4 4.5 111%
W Yorks 3.2 3.2 3.1 2.9 2.9 3.2 4.2 4.6 5.4 5.8 5.2 4.4 36%
Essex 2.3 2.3 2.6 2.8 2.9 3.2 3.7 4.0 4.7 5.1 5.2 4.4 94%
Humberside 2.6 2.7 2.6 2.6 2.9 3.4 3.9 4.2 5.1 5.4 5.0 4.3 66%
Leics 2.8 2.4 2.4 2.2 2.4 2.6 2.9 3.4 4.3 4.6 4.6 4.2 52%
Cambs 2.8 2.9 2.7 2.5 2.6 3.1 3.5 3.9 4.6 4.9 4.8 4.2 49%
Kent 1.8 1.8 2.1 2.4 2.9 3.0 3.4 3.9 5.3 5.4 4.8 4.2 130%
Notts 3.5 2.9 2.7 2.7 2.8 3.3 3.9 4.7 5.5 5.9 5.4 4.1 16%
Derbys 2.5 2.6 2.5 2.3 2.6 2.5 3.0 3.2 3.7 4.2 4.5 4.0 60%
Lancs 2.1 2.3 2.3 2.5 2.8 3.0 3.3 3.8 4.4 5.6 4.5 3.8 82%
Northumb 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.6 2.2 2.8 3.5 4.4 4.7 4.2 3.7 147%
W Mercia 2.1 2.3 2.4 2.3 2.2 2.8 3.5 3.8 4.4 4.6 4.1 3.7 77%
England & Wales 2.4 2.4 2.5 2.4 2.5 2.7 3.1 3.5 4.3 4.5 4.3 3.6 51%
Warwicks 2.4 2.5 3.0 2.7 2.9 2.9 3.4 4.2 5.2 4.9 4.3 3.6 50%
Norfolk 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.6 1.7 2.1 2.6 3.0 3.8 3.9 4.1 3.6 127%
Durham 1.9 1.8 1.8 1.6 2.0 2.3 2.6 3.0 4.3 4.2 4.1 3.4 79%
Cheshire 2.1 2.0 2.0 1.9 2.2 2.2 2.2 2.5 3.4 3.7 3.7 3.4 67%
Staffs 2.5 2.4 2.3 2.5 2.8 3.1 3.7 4.3 5.1 5.0 4.3 3.4 34%
Sussex 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.2 2.1 2.6 3.0 3.4 4.2 4.2 4.3 3.4 71%
Dvn & Corn 1.9 2.0 2.3 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 3.1 3.7 3.8 3.7 3.3 75%
Gwent 2.8 2.5 2.1 2.1 2.3 2.6 2.9 3.1 3.8 4.5 4.2 3.3 18%
Merseyside 2.0 2.0 2.2 2.1 2.3 2.6 3.1 3.4 4.2 4.1 3.7 3.2 61%
Beds 2.8 3.0 2.7 2.7 3.0 3.1 3.3 3.5 3.8 4.7 4.4 3.2 15%
Avon & Som 2.7 2.5 2.6 2.4 2.5 2.7 3.7 4.2 4.4 4.2 4.1 3.2 18%
Gloucs 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.2 2.4 2.6 2.8 3.2 3.6 3.7 3.6 3.2 47%
Met Police 2.6 2.7 2.9 2.9 2.8 2.7 2.9 3.2 3.9 4.1 4.0 3.1 16%
N Wales 1.8 1.9 2.2 2.0 2.0 2.2 2.4 3.0 3.7 3.8 3.6 3.1 76%
Wiltshire 1.9 2.0 1.9 2.0 2.1 2.6 3.0 3.4 3.9 3.5 3.4 2.9 54%
Cumbria 1.3 1.4 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.8 2.1 2.1 2.7 3.3 3.0 2.7 111%
Herts 2.0 2.0 1.9 1.8 1.9 2.3 2.7 3.0 3.7 3.7 3.4 2.7 36%
S Wales 2.3 2.2 2.3 2.5 2.3 2.4 2.6 2.8 3.2 3.3 3.2 2.7 18%
Surrey 1.7 1.7 1.5 1.4 1.6 1.9 2.2 2.5 3.1 3.5 3.3 2.6 60%
Dyfed-Powys 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.2 1.5 1.8 2.0 2.4 2.7 2.7 2.5 99%
N Yorks 1.7 1.9 1.8 1.8 1.7 2.0 2.4 2.3 2.6 3.0 3.0 2.4 40%
Thames V 2.1 1.9 1.7 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.9 2.1 2.5 2.7 2.7 2.4 16%

Notes

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes estimates of the severity of different types of police-recorded crime, derived from the average sentence imposed in court for each type of offence. In the same dataset, ONS publishes an overall estimate of the severity of crime per capita in each police force area. To convert this to an estimate of crime severity per officer (referred to above as crime pressure), severity per capita was multiplied by police force area population1 and then divided by the number of full-time equivalent police officers in each force. Crime pressure is therefore defined as the severity of police-recorded crime per full-time equivalent officer.

Estimates of the severity of different crimes are inherently limited, although they are likely to be more informative for some purposes than simply counting crimes (which implicitly assumes all crimes are of equal importance). For a further discussion of this, see Comparing methods for measuring crime harm/severity.


  1. Police force area populations were calculated by aggregating mid-year population estimates for local authorities to police force areas using the ONS open geography portal local authority to police force lookup table.↩︎

Matt Ashby
Matt Ashby
Lecturer in Crime Science

I am a lecturer in crime science at the Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science at University College London (UCL). I am interested in crime analysis – particularly how crime concentrates in time and space – in crime prevention and in transport crime.

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