On Friday June 2nd the Oxford Centre for Criminology was pleased to welcome Mr Anthony Stansfeld, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Thames Valley, for a presentation on how the police in Thames Valley are organized, how they operate, their recent successes, the challenges they face, and the benefits of the PCC system.

Thames Valley Police is by far the largest non-metropolitan police force in the country, serving a population of 2.3 million spread out over a vast area. To maintain order and control crime, Thames Valley Police has about 4000 police officers, 2500 staff, just under 500 support officers, 550 special constables and 500 volunteers. Their goals are set out in the crime plan, which the PCC updates every five years, after wide consultation. This crime plan reflects as much as possible the concerns of citizens that emerge from the consultation process, although this does not always coincide with the issues the police identify as more important. It is the responsibility of the PCC to find a balance between the two and create a crime plan that has the support of people, but also tackles the issues that are on the rise and cost society the most (fraud, cybercrime, etc.).


The biggest challenges for Thames Valley Police are brought on by budgetary restraints and the vastness and diversity of the area under its control. Firstly, on top of austerity measures, the way money is divided among forces allocates more money per citizen to larger cities than to rural areas, which greatly increases operating difficulties within forces such as Thames Valley Police. The second issue is that there are big differences between the priorities of the large rural areas and the urban centres within the area the Thames Valley Police is responsible for.

Despite these difficulties Thames Valley Police has achieved some major successes. It managed to reduce household burglary by 60% in the major cities, hugely reduced the theft of heavy machinery, a hard to tackle form of organized crime in the main rural areas and highly profitable for organised crime; and it cracked down on crimes against vulnerable victims, including tackling domestic abuse more effectively and seeking to end to the grooming for sexual exploitation of young women and girls.

Mr Stansfeld is of the opinion that the PCC system works well, as evidenced by Thames Valley Polices successes. Despite the PCCs being democratically elected, he believes that the system is less politically influenced than the previous system of local police authorities run by the Home Secretary. The PCC system is more proactive and allows the police to tend to the needs of the public more effectively. Politically, in England, there is a stark division between rural and urban areas, the rural PCCs all being Conservatives while the urban ones are Labour.

During the Q&A Mr Stansfeld assured students that he wants to crack down hard on crime (including major financial crimes and fraud) and drug use, while taking special care of the needs of vulnerable people. Here a divide between the Conservative PCC and some of the more left-leaning students was laid bare. A polite discussion ensued after which it seemed both parties agreed to disagree. Mr Stansfeld focused on terrorism, the benefits of stop and search powers, and the need for improved treatment of the mentally ill, and engaged in a frank debate with some of the students present, particularly on the matter of the police response to the use of ‘soft’ drugs. Undoubtedly, all of the students went home with a clearer insight into the workings of the PCC system and the role of the PCC in Thames Valley Police in particular, and with a great deal to reflect upon.

Thames Valley Police is by far the largest non-metropolitan police force in the country, serving a population of 2.3 million spread out over a vast area. To maintain order and control crime, Thames Valley Police has about 4000 police officers, 2500 staff, just under 500 support officers, 550 special constables and 500 volunteers. Their goals are set out in the crime plan, which the PCC updates every five years, after wide consultation. This crime plan reflects as much as possible the concerns of citizens that emerge from the consultation process, although this does not always coincide with the issues the police identify as more important. It is the responsibility of the PCC to find a balance between the two and create a crime plan that has the support of people, but also tackles the issues that are on the rise and cost society the most (fraud, cybercrime, etc.).

The biggest challenges for Thames Valley Police are brought on by budgetary restraints and the vastness and diversity of the area under its control. Firstly, on top of austerity measures, the way money is divided among forces allocates more money per citizen to larger cities than to rural areas, which greatly increases operating difficulties within forces such as Thames Valley Police. The second issue is that there are big differences between the priorities of the large rural areas and the urban centres within the area the Thames Valley Police is responsible for.

Despite these difficulties Thames Valley Police has achieved some major successes. It managed to reduce household burglary by 60% in the major cities, hugely reduced the theft of heavy machinery, a hard to tackle form of organized crime in the main rural areas and highly profitable for organised crime; and it cracked down on crimes against vulnerable victims, including tackling domestic abuse more effectively and seeking to end to the grooming for sexual exploitation of young women and girls.

Mr Stansfeld is of the opinion that the PCC system works well, as evidenced by Thames Valley Polices successes. Despite the PCCs being democratically elected, he believes that the system is less politically influenced than the previous system of local police authorities run by the Home Secretary. The PCC system is more proactive and allows the police to tend to the needs of the public more effectively. Politically, in England, there is a stark division between rural and urban areas, the rural PCCs all being Conservatives while the urban ones are Labour.

During the Q&A Mr Stansfeld assured students that he wants to crack down hard on crime (including major financial crimes and fraud) and drug use, while taking special care of the needs of vulnerable people. Here a divide between the Conservative PCC and some of the more left-leaning students was laid bare. A polite discussion ensued after which it seemed both parties agreed to disagree. Mr Stansfeld focused on terrorism, the benefits of stop and search powers, and the need for improved treatment of the mentally ill, and engaged in a frank debate with some of the students present, particularly on the matter of the police response to the use of ‘soft’ drugs. Undoubtedly, all of the students went home with a clearer insight into the workings of the PCC system and the role of the PCC in Thames Valley Police in particular, and with a great deal to reflect upon.