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Keeping drugs out of prisons is just one of the ways we can keep crime down

In her latest blog, Alison talks about ONS crime figures and body scanners in HMP Exeter.

Keeping drugs out of prisons is just one of the ways we can keep crime down

We learned two pieces of fantastic news this week which reassured me that we are moving closer to our goal of achieving safer, more resilient and connected communities.
First the Office for National Statistics confirmed that the force area is one of only six police forces in England and Wales to see crime fall in the past year.
Of 42 police force areas in England and Wales, ours was the third safest part of the country in the year to 2019. That achievement is testament to the hard work of police and the incredible partnerships we have built in our communities.
The day after we got the crime figures we heard that Exeter Prison is to be fitted with x-ray body scanners which stop drugs, phones and weapons being smuggled in. This is something I have been campaigning on for many months.
Installation will begin in the next few weeks, with all scanners expected to be in place by the summer.
Images produced by the scanner provide a level of detail inside the body that has not been seen before in the Prison Service. In tests at HMP Leeds the scanner found over 300 items of contraband and, in its first year, has slashed the number of drugs getting into the prison.
HMP Exeter is a remand prison, which means a high turnover of inmates and more opportunities to smuggle.
Drugs and smuggled phones cause all sorts of problems and tensions inside prisons. Aside from the fact that they prevent problem drug users being able to take advantage of an opportunity to get clean, the dealing of contraband means debts and associated resentment can build up, leading to spells of violence and making life more difficult for Prison Service staff.
The trial, as you might expect, resulted in a significant reduction in violence and drug use. I hope that here in the Westcountry we will soon be seeing the benefits of this technology for inmates, their families, prison staff and wider society. It does not make any sense to any of us that prisoners sometimes have access to drugs in what should be the safest environment possible.
Coupled with initiatives like the Departure Lounge, which is funded by my office and puts Exeter prison leavers in touch with services like housing and potential employers, getting rid of drugs in prisons will help people get back on track and reduce reoffending.
I am pleased to see that there is some evidence to suggest that the hard work of the police force and partners is having the desired effect.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) report on recorded crime for the 12 months to September 2019 shows an overall decrease of 0.3% across the force area.

With 59 crimes reported per 1,000 people in the period  the force area was the third safest force area to live in England and Wales.

Serious violence was down 15%, theft was down 11%, burglary was down 9% and shoplifting was down 12%.
Our police officers must be congratulated for their efforts, which are reflected in these latest numbers, as must other partners and our residents, who have put their hand in their pockets to fund an increase in officer numbers.
The force must remain vigilant in the fight against crime. The figures also showed significant increases in domestic abuse, possession of drugs offences and robbery. Possession of weapons was also up but thankfully numbers remain low.

We can all do our bit to help. Members of the public must continue to report all crime so we understand the nature of offending and know the extent of the challenge before us. We know, for example, that crimes like shoplifting are chronically under-reported.

I will continue to fight for a better funding deal for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly from central Government.
If you would like to keep up with news on policing and become engaged in building safer communities please sign up to the Neighbourhood Alert news service via my website As well as regular updates from my office you will be sent details of initiatives in your community.

Crime can be reported online at, by email, webform or WebChat, or by calling 101. Incidents and intelligence can also be reported anonymously by contacting the charity Crimestoppers at or by calling 0800 555111.

Alison Hernandez