When writing the Police and Police and Crime Plan which shapes Devon and Cornwall Police’s strategic direction I asked the public to tell me what issues in their communities really needed tackling.

An incredible 97 per cent of respondents to a survey run by my office said tackling antisocial behaviour (ASB) was either fairly or very important to them.

Because of this I made ASB a police and crime plan priority, and have been working on police and partners to crack down on it for the past three years. I am pleased to say that reports of ASB are reducing across the force area but, with more than 23,000 of reports to the police in the year to November (and many more cases unreported), there is no room for complacency.

It is always helpful when the Government is pulling in the same direction as police forces and for that reason I was pleased when the Prime Minister launched its ASB Action Plan earlier this year.

Much of this plan, and the approach taken by my office, is to encourage people to take pride of their communities, work with their neighbours to make communities safer and intervene earlier to divert people away from causing a nuisance with services like the ASB outreach workers I have commissioned.

But a zero-tolerance approach to the drugs which lie behind so many problems in our society must also be welcomed. It is for that reason I was delighted to see the ban on possession of nitrous oxide come into force last Wednesday (Nov 8).

Now possession of ‘laughing gas’ is illegal with repeat serious users facing up to two years in prison and dealers up to 14 years. 

I hope this legislation will send a clear signal to people, especially young people, that not only is abuse of nitrous oxide dangerous to their health, but it is also illegal and those caught possessing it will face consequences.

Another cause of ASB which came to light last week is fly-tipping. This illegal dumping of waste came out top in terms of issues experienced by respondents to a rural crime survey carried out by Police and Crime Commissioners from around the South West.

Flytipping should be reported to the district council. Because it is a criminal offence this too can be reported to Crimestoppers.

With the Government delivering the tools we need to deal with ASB, my investing in the right services and our communities giving us essential information, I am sure we will start to feel a reduction in the types of behaviour which still blight too many lives.