Commissioner Alison Hernandez outside Penzance Police Enquiry Office, one of the 13 to reopen so far
On Friday councillors representing communities from around Devon and Cornwall came together to scrutinise, and ultimately support, my financial proposals for 2024-25.
And while the budget might not seem the most exciting read in the world the lines of figures in this annual document describe people working on projects which really matter. Whether they are opening police enquiry desks, working with victims or putting dangerous offenders behind bars.
Nationally, policing’s reputation has been seriously damaged in recent years by some abhorrent behaviour. But while this remains a reputational challenge I reminded panel members that the majority of police officers are very decent and making a positive difference in the communities they serve and are well regarded by those communities.
Before all 14 members of the panel unanimously approved my budget I highlighted some of the excellent work which has been flagged to me by residents, like the teams in east Cornwall and West Devon who linked up to organise an operation to tackle drug dealing in licensed premises.
In Ivybridge an Inspector reduced antisocial behaviour by convening all the partners in the action plan – local businesses, local schools and local councillors. This was local teamwork delivering policing success.
And in Barnstaple great detective work involving CCTV footage, local support, rigorous door-to-door investigation and forensic fast-tracking led to the arrest and conviction of a local man who had raped and sexually assaulted two women.
We have one of the lowest recorded crime rates in the country and I am keen to keep it that way by supporting more of this work and better connecting communities to the policing teams that serve them by accelerating my programme to reopen more police enquiry offices.
My project to create an additional 18 police enquiry offices (PEOs) around the force area has so far seen 13 open their doors to the public.
Now the budget has been given the green light I can accelerate this plan, reopening a further four in the next financial year.
A new PEO will open in Exeter city centre in addition to that at the city’s Middlemoor Police Station. PEOs in Tavistock, Ivybridge and Liskeard will also be reopened. The projects were due to be delivered over two years but this can now be compressed, with all four due to reopen before April next year.
Working with local partners on this project has been very rewarding, and it has been hugely gratifying to see the impact this investment has made in our communities, whose contribution via taxation has made it all possible.
The locations selected have been chosen using a rationale of public demand, financial feasibility, and operational policing necessity.
I know this is a popular project because in my Your Safety, Your Say survey 62% of respondents said they supported or strongly supported further investment in PEOs and 76% of people who took part in a Devon & Cornwall Police survey agreed that accessible face-to-face contact via a police enquiry office increased confidence in local policing.
The final PEO delivered will be via the redevelopment of Exmouth Police Station, a £5m project which I am seeking planning permission for.
My budget for 2024-25 will create a £12.94 (4.95%) rise in the annual precept paid by a band D property in the force area, taking band D precepts to £274.50 a year. The precept income, combined with an increase in the central government grant and savings of £5.4m, will maintain officer numbers in Devon & Cornwall Police at record high numbers of 3,610.
I also intend to spend £9.6m on commissioning to help victims and maintain Devon and Cornwall as one of the safest police force areas in the country. This includes commissioning of Safer Streets projects and victim services, and partnership work to improve road safety. In 2022-23, the last year for which figures are available, almost 29,543 victims of crime were referred to support services commissioned by me.
I hope you will agree that this investment is needed to maintain public safety across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. More information will be sent to you with your council tax bills and is available on my office’s website.