Devon fares well with the second lowest levels of crime in the country. However, this impressive low crime record must not be a reason for complacency to take hold. We must continue to ensure that we maintain, as well as improve, our low crime record. While also figuring out how best to address and stop the anti-social behaviour issues that are prevalent, the rural crime that takes place in the dead of night, or the domestic abuse that happens behind so many locked doors.
Over the last three years, I have made it my mission to work with the local police force to address these issues. In doing so I have been pleased to successfully campaign to reopen Kingsbridge Police Station front desk, as well as welcome a full complement of officers to South Devon that matches pre-2010 levels.
The nature of crime in South Devon in the 21st century remains very different to what it was and while some might still yearn for the days of the “Bobby on the beat”, it is essential we have a police force that is able to respond quickly and flexibly to local crimes across the vast expanse that is South Devon.
So how can this be achieved, and what more can be done? Innovation is always required, and as ever, South Devon can serve as a pilot scheme for the rest of the country to follow. My Police Hub Initiative seeks to open up more places and spaces for the police to utilise. Working with Parish Councils and using local facilities such as town and village halls, churches, and community spaces, we can open up new areas of the countryside for the police to use.
Through this initiative, the police can now factor in multiple “stop off “points while on patrol, rather than often having to return to their main headquarters. These community spaces will serve as a place for the police to use when on routine trips, but also to enhance engagement with communities. Perhaps most importantly these Police Hubs will help to drive up visibility and deter criminal activity.
Last week, I launched the first of these Police Hubs in East Allington and with a further twelve Parish Councils signed up to the initiative, I am hoping we can reassure residents of the safety and security of South Devon as well as support our fantastic police officers who do so much for so many, often with precious little thanks.
Already there has been a wide and warm welcome to this concept from both residents and the police, and it is my belief that by creating a widespread network, we can see that no village, hamlet or community is cut off from the front-line services that it needs. There is also room for this initiative to be expanded to other front-line services as well as being utilised in a disaster or emergency response scenario.
So, if your local Parish Council has not signed up for this initiative, then please do encourage them to do so. A full complement of Parish Councils working together will not only strengthen our resolve to stamp out all crime but also make the lives of our police officers easier. Added to which, if this model works then I have suggested to the Home Secretary and her Department that a national pilot scheme be launched across the whole country using this very unique South Devon model as the example.
As always, getting it right locally can have a huge impact at the national level. We have the chance to create a new system and mechanism that can both support and assist our front-line services that is cost-effective and crime-reducing. Such opportunities do not come around that often!