Bringing partners together to tackle the scourge of violent crime

Devon and Cornwalls Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez . Picture: OPCC

Devon and Cornwalls Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez . Picture: OPCC - Credit: Archant

This week dozens of key people from around Devon and Cornwall will come together to hear about plans to take a long-term approach to tackling violence in our communities.

The Serious Violence Prevention Programme was formed two years ago in recognition of the fact that while we are fortunate enough to live in some of the safest parts of the country, there has been a worrying rise in violent crime and we need to break the cycle of behaviours which leads to violence.

Much of this offending is in the home, much goes unreported. All too often violent crime, as we have seen in Plymouth in recent months, has truly tragic consequences.

The social and economic costs of this type of offending are great. A Home Office study published in 2018 estimated that crimes against people cost the UK economy £90billion a year. Because of the higher physical and emotional costs to the victims of violent offences, these crimes were responsible for two thirds of that cost.

There has been progress. Crimes like domestic abuse are more likely to be reported now than ever before and the police are better trained and more likely to respond than ever. Good quality help is available for victims of all forms of violent crime in Devon and Cornwall, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Often people talk about a golden age of policing, assuming things were better years ago. The reality is that police officers now investigate crimes they may have turned a blind eye to in years gone by. They now have at their disposal a vast array of solutions and support on offer to those affected by these crimes.

But by the time police become involved, and a crime has been committed, it is too late. We have to address the behaviours and problems in society that cause people to be violent before the damage is done.

In recent years I am pleased to have been part of successful applications, in partnership with local authorities, for Home Office monies to engage with perpetrators of domestic violence. Investing in these services gives perpetrators the chance to face up to the consequences of their offending and ultimately prevents their family members being assaulted or even killed.

I’ve said before that police cannot deal with these issues alone. That is why the Chief Constable and I have forged a partnership with schools, social services, community groups and health services to look specifically at the issue of how we reduce violent crime in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

There has been some promising work done in this field locally. The Turning Corners project that addressed youth offending in South Devon has left a rich legacy in terms of how we engage with young people and their families. It offered hope to dozens of young people, persuading them that they had better options than carrying weapons and becoming involved in drugs.

On Thursday the programme, which I and the Chief Constable established in 2020 in response to the rise in violent crime, will bring together around 90 key individuals across these public services.

Together we need to take that learning and Government funding and be ambitious in our drive to find a long-term solution that will make Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly even safer for us, our children and our grandchildren.

At the forefront of our minds will be those who have died at the hands of a violent offender. Bobbi-Anne McLeod, the young woman murdered in Plymouth last year, the victims of the Plymouth shooting in August, and those whose cases went unreported by the media, should provide all the motivation we require to overcome any barriers to this simple objective.

If you have been a victim of crime please report it to police, in an emergency call 999 or in a non emergency call 101, webchat or email the police via devon-cornwall.police.uk. Alternatively, to stay 100% anonymous, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or call Freephone 0800 555 111.

Victims of Crime can get free expert advice 24 hours a day from Victim Support on 08 08 16 89 111 or via victimsupport.org.uk.