Thames Valley Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner have revealed plans for a state-of-the-art forensics centre as part of a wider improvement programme to transform forensic services across the force area.
The purpose-built centre in Bicester will become the main forensics hub for the force, containing laboratories, new digital technologies and dedicated training facilities.
The Forensic Improvement Programme will see significant investment over the next three years to transform Thames Valley Police’s forensic services, improving investigations and the outcomes for victims.
Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Barber said: “The programme is the result of a review of Thames Valley Police’s forensics services as a whole where we’ve identified the need to modernise facilities and increase capacity.
“In a world of rapidly advancing technology, ensuring the police stay on the cutting edge of forensics is crucial to keeping the public safe. Whether crimes such as burglaries, sexual offences or digital crimes, the police need to get ahead of the criminals.
“In addition to the increased number of community police officers already announced as part of this year’s budget, the significant investment in forensics, including the new centre at Bicester, will improve the speed and quality of investigations by those frontline officers across Thames Valley to help deliver justice for victims and ultimately help to cut crime.”
The planning committee at Cherwell District Council resolved to grant planning permission for the new forensic centre on force-owned land near Avonbury Business Park on Howes Lane, subject to the completion of a Section 106 agreement.
Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2023 and be completed in the winter of 2024/25. Willmott Dixon has been selected as the preferred contractor and Atkins as the design consultant.
Other key elements of the Forensic Improvement Programme include:
Kay Hannam, Head of Forensic Services at Thames Valley Police, said: “Forensic science can be the key to an investigation; in getting a case to court and delivering a timely outcome for the victim.
“This critical investment will support forensic services across the board from adopting new technologies, developing our people and ensuring legitimacy in the criminal justice system.
“Underpinning this programme of growth is our proposed new purpose-built accommodation that will bring specialisms together under one roof. Here we will have the flexibility to expand our services to meet existing and future demand.
“This will be particularly important in areas such as digital forensics, where we are seeing significant increases in demand and complexity year on year.
“It is an ambitious programme, but it is an exciting time for Thames Valley’s forensic unit. Once complete, it will provide our officers, partner organisations, and most importantly our victims with market leading, cost effective and high quality services.”