Scrutiny over police crime plan to address concerns

Members of Police and Crime Panel sat around a conference room in silence

Friday’s Police and Crime Panel observed a minute’s silence in respect of the victims of the Keyham shootings and their families - Credit: Devon & Cornwall Police

On Friday councillors who form the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel met to scrutinise my decision making, as they do regularly throughout the year.

This was the first time they had come together since the tragic events of August 12, when five people were murdered in Keyham, Plymouth. There was a sombre tone to proceedings which started with a minute’s silence to respect the victims of that horrific crime and their friends, family and community.

We were heartened to hear that messages of support for those affected by the shootings had come in from around the world.

And I was able to update the panel and the public on our work to support Keyham residents since that fateful date.

The recovery plan put together by my office and partners including Devon and Cornwall Police has three areas of focus: how we support victims and witnesses, hot spot policing and what we call a ‘safer streets’ approach.

As Police and Crime Commissioner I have specific responsibility for providing services for victims of crime and I am ensuring that funding is in place for 24/7 professional support, counselling and trauma therapy for all those who require it.

Hot spot policing is a traditional tool that creates a reassuring visible presence coupled with community engagement and is designed to foster feelings of safety in this traumatised community. I will be seeking assurance from the Chief Constable that the levels of policing are appropriate and proportionate.

The ‘safer streets’ approach adopted by our office elsewhere in the city to great effect will enable public spaces to be improved, fund additional practical security improvements for residents and invest in training for our community.

This additional investment will of course require more money, and I am leading the policing element of talks with central Government to explore funding streams to ensure this support remains in place in the long term and so the burden does not disproportionately fall on the local council tax payer.

By working with the Government, Plymouth City Council, Devon and Cornwall Police, Victim Support and Neighbourhood Watch I am certain we can restore feelings of safety and ensure the people of Keyham can continue to fulfil their potential after such an atrocity.

The other area of work is ensuring that the public’s voice is heard is the national survey of public opinion. This week the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners will be launching a national survey that will gauge public opinion around firearms licensing. A Home Office review of policies and procedures is under way and we want to make sure that the public voice is heard in that review as loudly as possible. 

Friday’s panel meeting coincided with the six-month anniversary of the murder of Sarah Everard in London and just over a year on from the equally tragic murder of Lorraine Cox in Exeter. These high-profile cases and the Plymouth incident remind us that although we enjoy historically low crime rates, sadly an unacceptable level of violence is present in our country. My draft Police and Crime Plan, a strategy for police and partners for the next four years, was presented to panel members for comment and prioritises a long-term project to understand and combat the cause of this violence.

Also contained in the draft plan, which will be published in full this autumn, is a commitment to tackle our community priorities of drugs, antisocial behaviour and road safety. We know these are the issues that matter most to our communities because of two surveys run by my office that generated 6,342 completed responses. It is what you tell me when we speak which is why they were part of my manifesto commitments. So thank you for endorsing them at my recent re-election in May. 

That engagement with the public has hugely helped me and our partners understand the crime that still blights lives every day in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

So I will end this week’s column by thanking every one of you who has got in contact by mail, phone or social media or by taking part in one of my surveys. Your voice matters and you can rest assured it will be reflected in your 2021-25 Police and Crime Plan.

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