One of the significant things my office has been able to achieve in recent years is to help police, partners and in some cases communities access pots of Government funding.
For instance, in 2017 we played a key role in winning £8.5m from the Government’s police transformation fund to establish a national modern slavery unit in Exmouth. Then, last year, my office helped secure over £1m from the Ministry of Justice to support five charities who work with victims of sexual abuse.
There have been other examples too, the most recent being a grant of £500,000 from the Home Office’s £25 million Safer Streets initiative to be spent in the North Stonehouse area of Plymouth.
North Stonehouse has a vibrant and close-knit community with many wonderful people working hard to make a huge difference. But, at the same time, in recent years there have been negative headlines about the area.
The area, with the city’s historical cathedral right at its heart, witnesses the highest residential crime rates in Plymouth for acquisitive crime, violent crime, anti-social behaviour and crimes related to instances of substance misuse. The three-year average burglary rate is four times higher than the average for Devon and Cornwall and three times higher than the average for Plymouth.
In response to these issues and with the new funding under our belts we have joined forces with local community groups, the neighbourhood police team in Plymouth, Plymouth City Council and the Plymouth Community Safety Partnership - Safer Plymouth, to form Stronger North Stonehouse. The partnership’s aim is to help drive out crime such as burglaries, vehicle thefts and robberies – which are often drug-related – and in doing so improve the area’s reputation.
There’s strong evidence that crimes like these, known as acquisitive offences, can be prevented by tactics that either remove opportunities to commit crime or act as a deterrent by increasing the chances of an offender being caught. Things like good quality CCTV, improved home security, Neighbourhood Watch schemes, better street lighting and more advice on crime prevention are proved to help stop these acquisitive crimes and make communities safer in the process. Stronger North Stonehouse plans to introduce all these things and more.
At the forefront of the help given to householders is the ‘Feel Safe Scheme’ which will help residents carry out small repairs to their properties, such as fitting stronger locks and other security devices. There will also be community-led projects such as graffiti clean-up schemes and improvements to the public spaces including Victoria Park, Patna Place and Neswick Park. There will be a community sparks fund to which residents and groups can apply for small pots of funding to support projects which help make the area a better place to live. And we have called in the expert help of Devon and Cornwall Community Watch Association to help residents to set up community watches which has a proven track record in improving community safety.
No one knows North Stonehouse better than its community, and local group Cllik Community will be its champion, helping encourage others like Friends of Wyndham Square, Inner City Seeds and Friends of Wantage Gardens to work cohesively for the common cause.
The bid for this Safer Streets money came about after a tremendous effort from partners and residents and it’s paid off – literally!
The local community has worked extremely hard with neighbourhood police teams to make significant improvements in recent months. This funding will give us the means to really improve lives and prospects and show that we take crime seriously. And through Stronger North Stonehouse we will be by our community’s side to ensure that this area is not neglected by any of us who can help.
This project is most welcome. We have really listened to the residents of North Stonehouse and we are taking their concerns seriously. We want to make them feel safe in their community and I truly believe these initiatives - particularly the streetlights and CCTV cameras - will increase the sense of safety and security.
North Stonehouse is a deprived area that has suffered with reputational issues in the past, but I am certain this project is going to help change that.
The project has also given us the chance to support the local economy too and where possible we have employed local business to provide services.