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Keeping our two counties safe in the summer

Easter weekend marks the start of the busiest few weeks of the year for Devon and Cornwall’s hospitality sector.

Keeping our two counties safe in the summer

Bars, restaurants and hotels make up a significant and vital part of our economy. In Cornwall alone a fifth of jobs are in the sector, while in Devon it’s 10%. Visitor spend across the two counties was an incredible £7.3bn in 2019, the last year for which figures are available.

Of course, a larger population means more work for all our emergency services, something I have written about, and campaigned on, repeatedly over the years. Devon and Cornwall Police is funded through my office and I think the amount we receive from central Government should reflect the huge increase in the number of people here between April and October.

Fortunately Government rhetoric on this issue has changed over the years, with rurality and tourism now very much part of the debate around the formula by which police funding is calculated.

Of course, visitors wouldn’t be so attracted to this part of the world if they did not feel safe, that’s why improving road safety and tackling drugs, antisocial behaviour and violence are police and crime plan priorities in Devon and Cornwall.

We are lucky to live in a force area which has one of the lowest recorded crime rates in the country, and I will be working hard with our Chief Constable to keep it that way.

I was pleased to see the latest round of Operation Scorpion, the programme of enforcement against drugs initiated by Police and Crime Commissioners around the South West, net some positive results last week.

Devon and Cornwall Police made a total 56 arrests relating to those suspected of links to the drugs trade. Officers seized almost £250,000 worth of suspected class A, B and C drugs, over £7,000 in cash suspected to be linked to criminality, 66 mobile phones suspected to be involved in co-ordinating drug deals, 70 knives and six other weapons.

Officers carried out checks on vulnerable people who may be susceptible to cuckooing, where people are coerced into having their property used for drugs supply.

In our force alone there were 91 intelligence led person searches and 41 intelligence led vehicle searches.

Warrants were executed in West Cornwall where a man and woman were arrested on suspicion of supply of class A and C drugs. Proceeds of crime applications were made to the court, which saw watches to the value of £10,000 seized, cash seized to the value of £3,000, as well as an account freezing order - preventing use of around £44,000 held in bank accounts.

In Plymouth, officers responded to intelligence where a man was reportedly in possession of two homemade Tasers and suspected cannabis. Meanwhile, a warrant at an address in Exeter resulted in five people being located in a residential address in possession of suspected drugs and cash with several people arrested on suspicion of intent to supply class A drugs. A knife, machete and axe were also seized.

Following reports of suspicious packages on beaches in South Devon and East Cornwall, officers identified these items, which contained suspected cocaine with an estimated value of £60,000.

Drugs can have a huge impact on our communities and children can often be exploited as part of this process, which is simply not acceptable and something we’re determined to tackle.

It is vital that we continue to work together, and police use all the powers and resources at their disposal, to maintain our two counties as safe and pleasant places for our resident population and those who head here for rest and relaxation.

A long-awaited review of the police formula is expected in the next couple of years and I will continue to make the argument that our rurality, sparsity and visitor numbers present unique challenges to policing, and these should be recognised by additional financing so we can continue to bear down on those who threaten our way of life.

If you have information on drug dealing in your community you can contact CrimeStoppers, anonymously, via the charity’s website crimestoppers-uk.org or call 0800 555111.