Once again, Devon has been found to be the second safest place in the country. This welcome news shows that our local police force’s continued efforts are not only maintaining a strong record but ensuring that post-lockdown crime rates are not edging up.
Of course, we must applaud our police force and the fantastic work of our officers. Across South Devon, local police teams have made themselves well known by their friendly engagement with residents, high visibility, and continued efforts to make themselves part of the community. Such approaches are having positive effects and are helping to disrupt crime links and snub out anti-social behaviour.
While all this news is welcome, we cannot allow complacency to breed. Devon is not a soft touch on crime but a well-oiled criminal busting, disrupting and arresting area in which our officers are getting the necessary results. But more can be done.
Increasing our police officer numbers is essential. It has already been announced that forty-six new officers will be deployed to South Devon over the next twelve months. Of these, twenty-one are trainees and twenty-five are transferees. Such an increase can only further improve the effectiveness of our force. In total, by the end of 2023, we will have more police officers than in 2010.
That said, new recruits are now required to undertake a degree level course before they can start as a frontline officer. While it is positive that we are encouraging our police men and women to hold degrees, it seems odd to make it compulsory rather than optional. After all, a mixed market is something we all should subscribe to. Added to which, these degree courses are holding up the 20,000 new officers (which we are on target for) entering front line service.
The second point is recognising that old policing methods such as the ‘Bobby on the beat’ is a thing of the past. Yes, we must have local teams in specific areas, all of whom are familiar to residents. But we must also understand that the nature of crime has shifted and the demands on the police are far higher and more varied than ever before and therefore static officers are not a well-used resource.
In understanding that the nature of crime has changed, we must ensure that every level of society is playing its role in helping to keep communities safe. Like Neighbourhood Watch, Alison Hernandez’s Councillor Advocate Scheme offers closer engagement between councillors, parish councils and the police. Such integration results in better information and intelligence and more action across the region.
Finally, it is also about using the pre-existing structures in our midst. Our villages and towns all have halls that are underused. I am therefore creating an initiative to use these halls as stop off points for officers on patrols. Our Police Hub scheme will not just enhance visibility but offer a pit stop for officers moving about the area. If successful, I hope to see this scheme rolled out across the country.
It is welcome to know that Devon is so safe, but this does not hide the fact that we do have drug and anti-social behaviour issues that need to be dealt with. Through pushing officers online quicker, better engagement with residents and enhanced visibility, we can help to reduce crime even further.