Friday felt like a good day for our lovely part of the world. After a murky start with a little rain as I crossed Bodmin Moor, the sun came out just as we confirmed that Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly had less recorded crime than any other force area in the country.
It is no wonder that, as many schools broke up for the summer, the roads heading west were busy with people keen to holiday here. We are the number one domestic tourist destination, with rolling countryside and the stunning coastlines, and now we have also become the area with the number one lowest crime rate.
Together, we have helped communities deliver a six per cent reduction in recorded crime in the year to April. This is 6,438 fewer crimes than in the preceding 12 months, and gives us a rate of 57 crimes per 1,000 people.
To put that in context, if you lived in the two worst performing areas you would be more than twice as likely to be a victim of crime.
There are many reasons for this significant decrease. Our community is largely law abiding and intolerant to crime and our police have done an outstanding job of keeping people safe, but they have not done so in isolation. The Police and Crime Plan I established in 2017 had the ambition of creating, safe, resilient and connected communities, and our partners in the public and private sectors, and in our communities, have played a crucial role in getting crime down.
As I have mentioned before, it is only by working together with a shared purpose that we are greater than the sum of our parts. The reason for my drive to Cornwall on Friday and Saturday was to meet some of the people involved in our latest partnership project.
Because we know this summer will be an extremely busy one (something that was welcomed by all the small business owners I met in the Duchy) I have been working with councils and local businesses to provide additional support at 20 of the westcountry’s most popular beauty spots for 10 weeks.
This £500,000 scheme is extremely straightforward. Councils or community safety partnerships responsible for the areas identified as unusual antisocial behaviour hotspots get to choose from a menu of options designed by my office. These were additional CCTV, street marshalling hours, support for existing volunteer schemes like Street Pastors or even temporary toilets.
The street marshalling service has been popular and I have already agreed to fund 13,080 hours of marshalling this summer.
My visit to Cornwall was all about meeting some of the people who have helped to make this happen in double quick time – parish councillors, mayors, MPs, community safety partnership staff and of course, the marshals themselves.
I plan to visit all 20 sites soon but over two days started with Newquay, Truro, Perranporth, St Ives and Penzance. The marshals are all Security Industry Authority registered. So many are former door staff at nightclubs and used to dealing with drunk people and intervening early before things turn violent. In most cases they already work hand in hand with neighbourhood police teams or council civil enforcement officers. The Safer Summer Scheme is designed to support and complement police officers, not replace them.
The reason we cannot afford a moment’s complacency is that we might have the lowest crime rates in the country but we face our fair share of other stuff that requires reporting to police. Crime itself accounts for a mere 16% of the calls for help to police in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Antisocial behaviour that isn’t illegal but causes distress and community tension, road traffic collisions and mental health crises cause multiple incidents that mean our officers and partners are certainly busy. The tourist season, which sees our population swell, also sees a rise in these incidents.
It’s important to say though, that relative to the considerable numbers of tourists (Visit Cornwall estimates it welcomed 80,000 visitors in the first week of the lockdown easing) the vast majority of visits go off without a hitch.
It’s no wonder as you enter Cornwall the sign on the A30 reads Kernow a'gas dynergh (Cornwall Welcomes You). For centuries the peninsula has been famous for its warm welcome to outsiders. The Cornwall Chamber of Commerce estimated that without a relaxation of the lockdown the county’s economy would have lost £2.4bn this year. Yes, our roads might be a little busier at peak times but the visitors mean jobs, livelihoods and companies and people’s futures saved. A prosperous economy means less crime and more resources to help those who need it.
So I’m delighted to be able to have provided some practical support that should reassure residents and visitors this summer. I was really impressed with the marshals – they are a professional and friendly bunch of men and women who will be highly visible in bright yellow jackets. If you see them, perhaps say hello and take a moment to ask them how it’s going.