A flourishing business community is the life-blood of our region, providing the jobs, growth and prosperity that we all rely on.
Having run my own company I’m very much aware of the challenges, as well as the rewards, that businesses of all sizes face.
And all too often they have to contend with being the victims of crime. It might be a theft from a van that deprives a plumber of a day’s work or a fraud which means staff are tied up with a complex insurance claim when they should be concentrating on winning customers. Ultimately when companies are the victims, we all suffer.
That’s why I was pleased to be the first Police and Crime Commissioner outside London to launch a Business Crime Strategy at the Devon Business Show in Plymouth last week.
Supporting victims is one of the priorities of my Police and Crime Plan and forms the basis of the strategy, which is built around five priorities - I want to build a better understanding of the community safety issues affecting businesses, to provide clear opportunities for companies to help prevent crime, to improve support for the victims of business crime and get the most out of national resources.
It is also vital that we in the South West play a part in influencing central Government policy on this issue.
There are multiple types of crime that hit our business community and ultimately our economy. One real area of concern for me at the moment is the growing issue of theft from vans. I have heard about this time and time again at events and through emails, letters and messages on social media.
Thefts from van might appear like a minor crime but robbing someone of their livelihood has a devastating impact. Telling sole traders that it’s simply their responsibility to empty their vehicles every night is not good enough. It’s not practical and we need innovative new solutions to tackle this problem.
Fortunately there are already some great practical examples where we’re already helping businesses help themselves.
My office has funded a new Shopwatch scheme – a network of businesses within a town centre linked by radio to police or CCTV operators – to improve communication between local businesses and the police to effectively target criminal activity and antisocial behaviour.
We’ve also funded new CCTV systems in Camborne, Hayle, Helston, Penzance, Redruth, Truro, Penryn and Falmouth, with other schemes due to come online soon.
The South West Cyber Security Cluster – a not for profit collaboration – is helping raise awareness of the growing threat of cyber crime and sharing best practice in the South West.
In addition, we already have dedicated support for companies affected by crime available as part of the Victim Care Network, and I’m very keen to expand this further.
I also want to see modern slavery awareness built into the Trading Standards Buy With Confidence programme. Customers need to know that every person who has been involved in each step of producing, growing or harvesting a product has willing worked, been treated fairly and been paid the wage or better.
The challenges are significant, as more crime moves online, the threats are becoming complex, but I firmly believe that together, and with a solid business crime strategy in place, we can make some real progress in this area so everyone in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly can feel safer where they live, work and play.
Now I’d like to ask you to take a few minutes to review the plan, which is out for public consultation until July 30. My team and I would welcome your views. You can find the Business Crime Strategy and how to feed back at > bit.ly/2JX4RRx