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Embrace hope not hate

PCC Alison Hernandez reflects on recent terrorist attacks and the strength of our local communities

Like many of you, I am deeply shocked and saddened by the recent spate of terrorist incidents that have beset our country over the past few months and taken too many precious lives. Just this week we woke again to another – with reports of a van driven into crowds outside Finsbury Park Mosque as people were leaving prayers. In amongst all of this tragedy we have seen heroic acts from our emergency services and from members of the public and huge outpourings of kindness and support from across our communities. We must all continue to work together to prevent such atrocities and to ensure we build a society of tolerance and partnership not hate.
We live in one of the safest parts of the country but we mustn’t be complacent. I want to encourage people to remain vigilant and to report anything that concerns them to the police or the anti-terror hotline.
I also want to urge people to unite, be hopeful and take a strong stand against hate crime – which must not be tolerated in our communities. If you or someone you know has been a victim of hate crime please come forward to report it and remember our victim care service is there to support you if you have been a victim of such a crime.
The men and women in our local police service work with dedication, strength and good humour to keep us safe. They are agile – adapting their approach and deployment as situations develop, for example through the increased deployment of armed officers immediately following the Manchester attack. As we approach the summer season I know that some of the public will grow increasingly concerned about their safety – but please be reassured the police and the wider security and emergency services will be working together to keep you safe.  
I have long argued that policing in Devon and Cornwall is underfunded and I will be pushing the new government hard to address this quickly. Our police officers and staff do an incredibly difficult job and they deserve our thanks and our respect but they also require our help, so once again I urge you to report any concerns or suspicions, however small they might seem, for investigation by calling the police or the anti-terror hotline. If you are fearful of doing this or of being found out then please make sure you contact Crimestoppers which is completely anonymous and separate from the police.
Earlier this month I took members of my engagement team onto the streets of Exeter and Plymouth to talk to people about their feelings, including the local policing response following the Manchester attacks.
I was reassured by those I spoke to who, without exception, said they were pleased to see the officers, and that they were so thankful for the work being done by the police on their behalf.
We also spent time encouraging people to report their concerns to the police – whether that be about people they suspect of criminal activity or if they are experiencing hate crime following the recent terrorist atrocities.
I am particularly concerned to hear about an increase in verbal and physical assaults towards some taxi drivers in Plymouth, so I was pleased that Sgt Graham Little, from Plymouth Police Diverse Communities’ Team, and Julie Padgett, from Plymouth Racial Equality Council, joined me in Drake’s Circus and we were able to discuss initiatives that the Racial Equality Council is running to encourage those affected to seek police help.
I was also delighted to hear that the Racial Equality Council is planning to re-establish the fantastic Plymouth Respect festival in 2018. We saw recently in Exeter what a brilliant, vibrant celebration of diversity Respect can be. Celebrating difference in our community is the key to creating a safe environment for everyone. Freedom to share your views, be true to yourself and flourish, are messages that many of our young people need to hear. This will ensure that we do not isolate individuals who may then be vulnerable to abuse, exploitation or even radicalisation. I am committed to help Julie and her team get the event up and running for next year.
If you'd like to help, or even set up an event in your home town, then contact my office and we'll see what we can do to help. It looks like Bideford will be trying something this year with the help of CrimeBeat funding, which is excellent news. As we move forward it is important for us all to ensure we embrace hope, not hate.
Please make a note of these important telephone numbers:
UK Anti-Terror Hotline – 0800 789321
Crimestoppers – 0800 555 111
Alison Hernandez