Commissioner unveils plan to reopen six more police station ‘front desks’
SIX more police enquiry desks will be reopened across Devon and Cornwall in the next 12 months, the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner will announce today.
The next phase of Alison Hernandez’s project to reopen police enquiry offices (PEOs) will see stations reopened to the public in Devonport (Plymouth), Looe, Ilfracombe, Honiton, Okehampton and Kingsbridge in the 12 months to April 2024.
A total of 17 front desks are being reopened under the project, taking the total number of PEOs across the force area to 26.
The force was among those to close ‘front desks’ during public sector cuts following the 2009 financial crisis. Across Devon and Cornwall 11 were shut their doors to the public in 2014, although the stations remained in use as operational bases.
The Police Enquiry Office (PEO) in the popular Cornish resort of Newquay was the first to be reopened, in 2020. The Commissioner and CC Kerr are today and tomorrow (March 10 and 11) officially reopening the PEOs in Tiverton, Newton Abbot, Penzance, Falmouth, Truro and Bude.
They have plans to open a further four PEOs between April 2024 and April 2026.
So far £1.5m has been earmarked for investment in the project. In addition, Exmouth Police Station in East Devon is being rebuilt and the new stations is to include a functioning front desk.
The Commissioner has made connectivity with the public a cornerstone of her Police and Crime Plans, arguing that face to face contact with the public helps victims and provides a long-term solution to rebuilding confidence in policing.
Ms Hernandez said: “Thanks to investment from our residents Devon and Cornwall Police now has record police officer numbers. Having accessible police stations close to our communities is the missing part of the jigsaw in providing the neighbourhood model of policing that the Chief Constable and I support.
“Although we experience some of the lowest crime levels in the country, drugs and antisocial behaviour are considerable issues for our communities. We want people to feel confident in telling us about the problems and challenges they experience before these issues escalate so preventative action can be taken.
“Already crimes including non-recent historic offences have been reported at one of our reopened police enquiry desks, demonstrating that some people prefer talking to an officer in confidence and in person.”
The force is the largest geographic police force in England and Wales and has more domestic visitors than any other, increasing demand for emergency services in remote rural and coastal locations selected for investment.
“There is an immediate positive effect of having these stations back open to the public for these communities,” the Commissioner added. “But this is more than that – it’s about making a long-term commitment to the people of Devon and Cornwall. We want to let them know that the police are by their side, accessible and care about their problems.”
Chief Constable Will Kerr said: “I am delighted we are able to reopen these offices. I believe that providing the public with opportunities to speak to the police face-to-face is essential to building trust and confidence in our communities.
“Devon & Cornwall Police has always prided itself on its community style of policing and for many people, including some of the most vulnerable in our society, offering the opportunity for face-to-face contact will increase the chance of engagement and, as a result, offer a greater opportunity for intervention and support.
“Coming after a time of isolation as a result of the global pandemic, the reopening of these public enquiry desks represents a reconnection with our communities; we are reopening our doors and providing a safe place for anyone to be able to come to us and ask for help.
“Public enquiry offices are incredibly important – they increase our accessibility, provide reassurance and help in building trust in our communities.”
Rural or coastal locations which see dramatic increases in population during the summer months are among those selected for investment.
Twenty four new police enquiry officer posts have been created this year and more staff will be recruited as stations are reopened. New technology means that when not dealing with face-to-face enquiries they can reduce demand to the police contact unit by dealing with emails and web enquiries.
The stations will be accessible to the public six days a week. A full list of PEOs and their opening times across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is available on the Devon and Cornwall Police website.