Crimes do not need to be violent to have terrible effects on victims

A dog frolicking in water. Picture: Getty Images

A dog frolicking in water. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Crimes do not have to be violent, involve weapons or the theft of expensive goods to have a terrible effect.

Those who work with me know I hate any crime being described as ‘minor’. Fortunately most of us who live in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will not suffer the misfortune of becoming a victim of a major crime - but evidence shows too many of us are concerned about things like drug dealing and antisocial behaviour in our communities.

In our survey last year antisocial behaviour and drug dealing were the issues that residents of the force area said most needed dealing with. And 75% of those who took part in the survey said reducing neighbourhood crime like burglary was their top priority.

Often it is the fear of such crimes that is so damaging. People routinely allow this to dictate the way they live their lives. Avoiding certain parts of their cities, towns or villages at certain times of day, and taking particular routes they feel are safe have unfortunately become engrained behaviours for many.

One of the areas where the fear of crime is perhaps far greater than the risk of being a victim is pet theft. Fortunately the chance of having your dog stolen in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is low. On average over the last five years around 70 dog thefts a year occur in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Most of those are related to family break ups or disputes, and around 25%, or 18 a year, are linked to organised crime groups.

Many dog owners fear losing their pet to theft, mostly because stories about dog-thieving gangs gained huge traction on social media during the lockdowns, and people were aware of a significant increase in puppy prices.

When this crime does strike the impact can be terrible. Last week John Morrily, a barber from Perranporth in Cornwall, described losing Patterdale terrier Lola to thieves who took her from outside his shop. John and Lola had been through thick and thin together, and he was justifiably very upset.

John and the Detective Constable assigned to the case, Leane Webb, did everything they could to locate Lola, and eventually they struck gold. Lola was found hundreds of miles away in Essex, was reunited with John while police made an arrest.

This case is important to me because it could have been viewed by the force as the theft of a relatively low value item and dismissed as unworthy of investigative effort.

Crimes do not have to be violent, involve weapons or the theft of expensive goods to have a terrible effect on their victims. In the next few months I want our police and communities to be focused on crime in all its forms so there are more happy endings like this.

For more information on Devon and Cornwall’s approach to pet theft visit: https://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/dogsafety.

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