Picture: (left to right) Councillor Tom Holway, Councillor Phillip Hackett and Vicky Booty
Every day throughout Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly there are lots of people and organisations working to keep you safe.
Statutory organisations like the local councils, charitable bodies, businesses and individuals, work and volunteer tirelessly to protect vulnerable people, prevent crime, respond to crime when it happens, support victims and work with offenders to change their behaviour.
There are also lots of people who are elected to help communities make sure these things are happening.
Parish, town, unitary and county councillors, MPs, MEPs, elected mayors and, yes, police and crime commissioners all have a responsibility to the people who they represent.
And as part of my promise to the people of Devon and Cornwall, the local policing promise made in the Police and Crime Plan, I want to better connect all these elected representatives with their police force.
The police are often referred to as the ‘thin blue line’ which means that together police officers form the barrier that protects our society, but I believe that all of us as citizens have a role to play in supporting that line.
Every day I’m made aware of endless examples where, through the action of individual members of our communities, our society has been protected.
Sometimes those things may seem small, and yet they have a huge impact.
I hear about individuals who, hearing violent arguing or crying regularly from their neighbour’s property, have the confidence to contact the police because they’re worried about the children in that home.
I hear about people who call the police or their local council because they are concerned about their vulnerable neighbour who has many different visitors coming and going at all hours of the day which have, on investigation, turned out to be a case of ‘cuckooing’ where criminals use and exploit vulnerable people – moving into their homes and using their home to deal drugs or engage in other criminal behaviour.
Just last week I attended an antisocial behaviour summit in St Austell where representatives of housing associations spoke about instances of ‘cuckooing’ which are happening in their properties and the steps being taken by a variety of bodies to frustrate this criminal behaviour. That solution is only possible because someone made the brave decision to pick up the phone and report it.
And we have all seen recent reports about people who own 4x4 vehicles and contact the police and the NHS when our counties are hit with snow to see if they can help get staff from our emergency services to where they are really needed.
By working positively together we can support the police and help keep our communities even safer - but to do that well, excellent communication is needed.
One way that I’m working to improve communication and better connect communities throughout Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly with their police force, is by harnessing the knowledge and connections of elected members via my new Councillor Advocate Scheme.
Local councillors know and understand their individual communities.
They are recognised and influential local leaders, who are well connected with the communities they represent. Because of this, they are in the unique position of being able to help improve the connection between communities, the police and my office.
My new scheme, which is open to any councillor in the area who would like to join this positive network, aims to ensure they feel more informed about crime and policing in their local area, that there is a practical and positive route to enable them to bring views from their communities to the police and to ensure that I’m kept informed of community views across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Our communities priorities should be reflected in the way they are policed and, it is my job to make sure that happens.
In return for volunteering to be a part of my scheme, councillors can expect to receive quarterly policing updates, regular information and news from my office and access to themed seminars each year.
Because the scheme is so new at the moment it is still quite small but it is my intention, that over time, it will develop into something which not only benefits local councillors and communities, but directly assists me in my role as police and crime commissioner.
More information about the scheme can be found on the council advocate page on my website and councillors can request further information by emailing my office at email@example.com
While I am writing about volunteering I also want to draw your attention to the fact that Devon and Cornwall Police are currently recruiting Special Constables – the application process for the Special Constabulary closes on 8 April.
Becoming a Special Constable (volunteer police officer) is your chance to give something back to your community and you’ll be a vital and valued part of making Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly safer.
In my role as Police and Crime Commissioner I am lucky to meet many of our special constables – a dedicated and inspiring group of people who have a real passion for their communities and I applaud them.
So if you are interested in becoming a special constable or would just like to learn more about what they do you can contact them at SpecialsRecruitment@DevonAndCornwall.pnn.police.uk
You can also find out more information about the current recruitment drive on Devon and Cornwall Police's website