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The importance of building relationships between the police and local communities

This week Alison talks about the benefits of connecting communities through engagement events and reintroduces the small grant scheme.

As I hope many of many of you will know the key priority in my Police and Crime Plan is ‘connecting police and communities’.

It became clear that this needed to become the key priority following our public consultation last year, the biggest consultation into policing ever held in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, that our communities felt, for one reason or another, had lost their connection with the police.

Now I completely understand the pressures the police face at the moment as new crimes become more and more prevalent and more victims have the confidence to report crime such as sexual and domestic abuse. But we must not lose sight of the fact that work done and relationships built in our communities is the number one way in which we can stop crimes from happening, stop people becoming victims, stop people becoming victims and make those communities better places to live, work and play.

I have been really disappointed this week to see some of our national newspapers criticising police officers for their visible presence and involvement in community events such as Pride and Respect festivals. The matter was also raised in a House of Lords debate this week and I was pleased to see Baroness Williams of Trafford say in response that the ‘trust between police and local communities is absolutely vital.’

When the police build relationships within communities of all types, whether that is diverse, local, online or something else, it dismantles the environment in which criminals can prosper and the vulnerable be exploited.

That’s why I and my team have attended over 50 community events across this patch in the past six months or so. That’s why we will attend more next year. That’s why my team has had meetings just this week with the police diverse communities teams, with council representatives, with Crimestoppers, Neighbourhood Watch, private companies and charitable bodies to plan what events we want to attend next year and if there is anything else we can do to get new events into the calendar.

I am so pleased that there is now a firm date in the diary for the return of the Plymouth Respect festival, July 14. It has been missing from the events’ calendar for a few years and has been sorely missed. I am also hearing a similar event may now be planned for Cornwall too. Great news!

I am also really pleased that PC Colin Gameson, based in St Austell, has been shortlisted in the Excellence in Diversity Awards 2017. Colin has been a driving force behind the Blue Light Day in Cornwall, a big day in the engagement calendar which aims to break down barriers between people with learning disabilities and the emergency services. This year was the 10th anniversary in Cornwall and the biggest ever with over 1,200 visitors. The Cornwall event has now inspired similar such days in both Plymouth and Cornwall and I am pleased to say my office helps fund each to ensure they have support and consistency. Colin was nominated for the award by my office and I would like to offer him the very best of luck at the awards ceremony on 30 November.

It’s not just Colin making in-roads, but the chief constable and his three geographic commanders presented their views of how they connect with their communities at the last Police and Crime Panel. If you want to watch it on the Plymouth City Council website - it starts at 1 hour 15 mins.

Another item up for discussion in my team at the moment are plans to reintroduce a scheme by which people and communities can apply to me for small amounts of grant funding. Nothing is in place just yet so please don’t start inundating the office with requests for information but are considering bringing back such a scheme for the first time in quite a few years.

We are still looking into how such a scheme might work, where its focus should be, if in fact it needs to concentrate on one area of the Police and Crime Plan or whether it should focus on building resilience to tackle crime within communities. If it is to be successful, as with so much of our work, it has to be part of a wider partnership approach where police, local authorities, business, charities, clubs, youth groups are mobilised to make where they live a better place.

The key will be for communities to identify those within that can make the most of such a scheme by finding people with the right skills to develop projects which will give support where it can have the biggest effect. Whatever form it takes I know how a relatively small amount of funding can have a disproportionately large impact communities and I am genuinely excited about the prospect of getting the scheme up and running.

If you would like to inform my policy on this proposed scheme and how everyone might get the best out of it please do get in touch, but do check out the Police and Crime Plan on the website first -

Alison Hernandez