Government’s Beating Crime Plan could have been written here

Devon and Cornwall police officers

Police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez has seen her term in office extended by the coronavirus crisis - Credit: Devon and Cornwall PCC

Last week the Government announced its plan to deliver ‘less crime, fewer victims and a safer country’. The Beating Crime Plan sets out the strategic direction that it wants police forces and the criminal justice system to take.

I was fortunate to have a front row seat as the plan was unveiled, chairing the meeting at which Policing Minister Kit Malthouse unveiled it to Police and Crime Commissioners from around the country.

From a Devon and Cornwall perspective the plan makes for reassuring reading. A lot of the initiatives and the focus on strong neighbourhood policing are already happening in large parts of Devon and Cornwall, or we are on track to deliver.

With some of the lowest recorded crime rates in the country perhaps it is no wonder that Government wants other forces to be a bit more like us.

For the last four years my police and crime plan has focussed on improving the connection between the police and those they serve. Yes, more needs to be done but neighbourhood teams are now more accessible, there are more officers and all residents of the force area can now easily access the names and contact details for their local team.

The Government’s plan, like the one I put in place in 2017, has a strong emphasis on connectivity throughout it. Victims will have named officers who are handling their case, police will be under increased pressure to deal with things like antisocial behaviour and drug dealing and to improve the performance of the 101 non emergency and 999 emergency contact services through a national league table of quality and timeliness.

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There is also a focus on reducing the violent crime that blights too many lives, with a recognition that the only way to do this in the long term is by investing as a society in young people at risk of becoming involved in violence. Breaking the cycle of violent crime that perpetuates in some areas or communities has been a focus of projects my office has been involved in, like Turning Corners in South Devon, where vulnerable young people have been engaged in services and offered alternatives. This work is now taking place across the region through the Serious Violence Prevention Board.

I have also commissioned Street Games to engage young people in parts of Devon. This charity harnesses the power of sport to create positive change in the lives of disadvantaged young people.

No one sets out to live a life of crime, by providing the right help at the right time society can show young people a more positive future exists if they make the right choices.

Enforcement also has its part to play though, and for those who deal drugs in our communities and exploit the vulnerable I am pleased to see proposals outlined in the Beating Crime Plan that will get tough on criminals. These include the expansion of electronic monitoring for persistent thefts.

There is also plenty of attention on courts and the problems faced by the Crown Prosecution Service and others in gaining convictions. The old saying goes that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. If lengthy waits for court dates were a problem before the Covid-19 pandemic, they are excessive now. This undermines confidence in the system for victims and witnesses so recognition of the problem, and a promise for better care of victims, is to be welcomed. Locally I work with the Local Criminal Justice Board to improve the effectiveness of the courts system and the experience of the victims of and witnesses.

The role of the Police and Crime Commissioner in the criminal justice system was underlined by another Government document released last week, one which marked the start of the second part of a review of PCCs. It will also examine the role of commissioners in reducing antisocial behaviour, something I have a keen interest in because I know how much it affects so many residents of the force area.

Tackling anti-social behaviour will not be easy and has to be something that we work with others to beat. There are tools such as the Community Trigger which involves a review of ongoing incidents of anti-social behaviour by all agencies involved in a case, which we could make greater use of.

My new Police and Crime Plan is currently being drafted and will build on the progress made to keep Devon and Cornwall residents more connected with their police force and the services designed to protect them. It is heartening to see the principles and strategies we have developed in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly reflected in national policy.

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