Crime chief outlines priorities in new policing plan

 Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez

Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez - Credit: PCC

Plans to tackle and prevent crime across Devon and Cornwall will prioritise violence, anti-social behaviour, drugs and road safety.  

Police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez’s second police and crime plan was revealed on Friday. 

Ms Hernandez says she hopes to build on the work already done and move towards creating “safe, resilient and connected communities.” 

Among the issues discussed in Plymouth at the Devon and Cornwall police and crime panel were an increase in officer numbers as a result of the government’s operation uplift.

The force is on course to recruit an additional 181 police officers this year. It is also set to benefit from the extra £4.2 billion announced in the budget for policing nationally, with an additional £42 million for new programmes that reduce crime and drugs misuse.

Included in this there will be more money for victim support and a requirement on local authorities to provide support services for all victims of domestic abuse within safe accommodation. 

Following incidents including the Keyham shooting in August, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners undertook a public survey looking at potential changes to the licensing of firearms which ended on 20 October.  The findings are yet to be published but there is reported to be a significant participation rate from Devon and Cornwall.

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The panel also heard how the home office has reviewed arrangements for the licensing of guns and this month introduced new guidance to be followed by all police forces.

Ms Hernandez has secured an additional investment of over £1.5 million to improve safety on the streets of Devon and Cornwall.

For Plymouth, this means an additional £512,000 projects and activities focused on Stonehouse, the Hoe and Barbican, the city centre and the Mutley/North Hill areas of the city.  This comes under the ‘Round of the Safer Streets’ initiative.    

Exeter will receive an extra £432,000 to tackle crime and make streets safer in the city centre and surrounding areas. The cash is aimed at making streets safer and comes from a fund focused on preventing neighbourhood crimes like burglary, vehicle theft and robbery. 

The report highlighted concerns about the efficiency of call handling and in particular problems with the consistency of the service provided to non-urgent calls to the 101 service. 

This was discussed by panel members including Cllr Laura Wright (Labour, Exeter St Thomas) who suggested the alternative ways of reporting non-urgent crime are also inadequate. 

“I did have to try and call something yesterday and it was showing 17 to 22 minutes on the phone calls,” she explained.

“So while I was hanging on, I then went to report something on the website – because what I was trying to report was the threat of a possible gun crime. 

“It didn’t seem to fit any of the click boxes. It then took me to AskNED to find a likely match and what came up was ‘foxes are killing my chickens.’”  AskNED is the force’s non–emergency database combining the most commonly asked questions with the contact details of those who can help.   

“So that was absolutely no good to me. I then tried a different way.   I went to Prevent and there was a phone number for Prevent which I rang, and every time I rang, it rang twice and cut off,” she said

“In the end, I did ring my local inspector because I’ve got his phone number in my phone.

“And so I appreciate what you’re saying there. But as a member of public trying to report something, that wasn’t actually a crime – but WAS information – I found that the website itself – the way that it’s set up – is really not particularly helpful for some things. 

“And there was nobody available on the webchat either.” 

The commissioner responded by referring to a national resource which she said was underused.

“This is an opportunity to plug the Single Online Home national police website that I have pushed and pushed for Devon and Cornwall police to sign up to,” she said. 

“They are now signed up to it. But we’re one of the laggards in relation to it because fundamentally at the moment, the police force think their website is better. 

“And you’ve just given me an absolutely perfect example of why it is not. And I think that I need to let you have a timeline of when we’re implementing that Single Online Home website.

Other issues discussed by the panel were the Serious Violence Prevention Partnership which is working to prepare for the new legislative framework around preventing serious violence.  The matter is currently being debated in parliament.

The new crime and police plan sets out the force’s priorities until 2025. 

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