As regular readers of this column will know, I’m proud to say that Devon and Cornwall remains one of the safest areas in the UK to live. On the flipside though, it’s also true that levels of reported violence are on the up (mirroring national trends) and now exceed levels seen before the Covid pandemic. 

I know communities have a clear expectation of what their local policing teams should be doing, but I fully support Chief Constable Will Kerr’s decision to put more visible police patrols into persistent problem areas to help tackle antisocial behaviour and violence. And I’ve said before that it’s through proportionate increases to the policing tax precept that I’ve been able to boost force strength to a record headcount of 3,610 officers.

Modern policing must be agile and targeted in response, scaling up efforts where it’s most needed, in order to protect our communities from harm and ensure budgets are put to best use.

In the largely urban areas of Torbay and Plymouth for instance, violent crime is almost double what’s recorded in the more rural, local authorities of Devon and Cornwall - with the Isles of Scilly enjoying the lowest rates in the region. But I want all residents to live in safe, resilient communities, free of violent crime.   

Violence, in all its forms, can blight our communities and damage lives – that’s why tackling it is one of the four priorities in my Police and Crime Plan. It’s also why Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has a peninsula-wide Serious Violence Prevention Programme which aims to address the root causes of violence in the region and future-proof it for the next generation. 

This pioneering £4m programme, established in 2020 with Home Office funds, is overseen jointly by me and the Chief Constable and supported by a wide coalition of partners across the region. All are dedicated to early intervention and community improvement. So far, our commissioned projects have provided life-changing support to over 1,400 vulnerable young people and helped around 140 parents. 

Our violence prevention programme is based upon the best available evidence about what works. Crucially, it takes a ‘public health’ style approach to tackling violence, treating it as a consequence of multiple factors, such as adverse childhood experiences and harmful domestic or community influences. For instance, young offenders are more likely to have grown up in social care settings, been excluded from school and to have witnessed domestic abuse as a child. The odds of experiencing a life free from violence are stacked against them, but this doesn’t mean going 'soft on crime' – rather, it means building safer communities for the future, and that’s something we’re all invested in.