Show helped police to make 'real' connections with the public

Police were on hand to talk to the public at this year's Devon County Show

Police were on hand to talk to the public at this year's Devon County Show - Credit: Devon & Cornwall Police

The last year has been a tricky one for members of my engagement team. Before Covid-19 struck they were delivering dozens of face-to-face talks and attending scores of events, from large-scale rural fairs to village community group talks.

The aim of this programme was to pick up on community issues, explain the role of the office and to help build connections between the police, volunteer groups and government that would ultimately build safer communities.

Much of this ‘connectivity’ work went digital when face-to-face engagement was brought to an abrupt halt by Covid lockdowns. Facebook live broadcasts, virtual question and answer sessions and tools like Neighbourhood Alert have helped keep residents informed of important developments but nothing quite builds relationships like physical meetings.

Fortunately my team has been able to meet people safely on some occasions in the last year or so. The Stronger North Stonehouse project, funded through a successful bid to the Government’s Safer Streets Fund, made community grants available in part of Plymouth for improvements to people’s homes. Although we launched a website and newsletter to push this message, getting out and engaging with that community was an essential part of making this project work. 

And two opportunities to make real connections came up recently which we were able to fulfil. The first was an invitation to give a talk about our work at South Brent parish council. As many members are not online, this Covid-safe talk — delivered while observing social distancing and wearing facemasks — gave members of this community a chance to get together and to flag any policing and crime matters to my office while finding out a bit more about what we do.

The second event was the Devon County Show, where we teamed up with rural and roads policing teams to run a stand featuring a police liveried Lotus sports car and Claas tractor, which certainly caught the attention of show goers.

Huge efforts had been made by show organisers to keep this event safe, with greater acreage given to exhibitors and rules in place. It was a fantastic opportunity for the county’s agricultural sector to get together, swap stories and do business.

On day one of the show my team made contact with an Exeter church with an interest in combating county lines drug dealing gangs. They did not know that my office has just obtained a significant amount of funding for a project to tackle crime in the city and are keen to work with the neighbourhood policing team and us to help find solutions to the challenges their community is facing. Contact details were swapped and hopefully that chance meeting will mark the start of a productive relationship.

So, while we are all likely to be on the road to full unlock for a while longer, the show was a welcome reminder of the power of bringing together people who have a common purpose.

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