As thermometers edged up past 20 degrees across our beautiful counties and islands over this bank holiday weekend, those of us lucky enough not to be working will have grabbed our sun cream and sunglasses and headed out to enjoy the spectacular beaches, moorlands and open spaces that make Devon and Cornwall such a wonderful place.
This weekend, marks in many respects, the start of the summer season. Over the next four months millions of tourists will head into our counties to enjoy what we have to offer. This is a vital part of our economy – and towns, resorts and villages across the counties are gearing up for that influx. Tourists are very welcome but their arrival does bring some real challenges, especially for our dedicated police officers and staff who will help to make sure they have a safe and happy time here.
Those challenges come in many shapes and sizes. The increased volume of traffic on our road network and the unfamiliarity of tourists with our narrow rural roads. The large number of people enjoying themselves – perhaps a little too much - in the many bars, pubs and clubs across our towns and cities. People getting into danger on or near the water on our fabulous coastline or long warm evenings leading to increased incidents of anti-social behaviour in our parks and open spaces.
This significant increase in our population means that policing resources are under pressure. Many of you might expect that the funding that we receive from government would take challenges like this into account – but sadly it does not. Our current police funding allocation from central government is based upon our resident population of 1.7 million and takes no account of tourism.
I have pledged to push government to do something about this – and to make sure that future police funding also recognises the additional costs to policing in a rural area like ours. We don’t yet know when the funding formula will be reviewed but I am continuing to work with our 18 MPs to make this case. In the meantime though – we must continue to keep both our residents and our visitors safe.
The Chief Constable and his team work hard each year to put a summer policing plan in place – looking for innovative new ways in which they can best meet the inevitable increase in demand that the summer brings. For example, last year – we piloted a new telephone record taking service – to reduce the pressure on officers taking statements when a crime occurs.
This new service – which will continue this summer – also provides a better service to the public – giving them the flexibility to speak to the police and record their statement at a time and a place that suits them. Other new ways of working are coming forward this year - with new hubs being set up locally to deal quickly with crimes when they occur.
Our dedicated volunteers, including the special constabulary, play a massive role in protecting the public over these summer months - working alongside full time officers to respond to incidents and to help us deal with busy events like summer festivals. The wider policing family, is also key. Like street pastors and volunteers working in helpzones like Newquay Safe who make sure that holidaymakers (and locals) who have drunk too much and may have become separated from their friends are looked after and kept safe.
As we head into what I hope will be a long, hot summer I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of the police officers and staff and the volunteers across the wider policing family who will be working to keep all of us – visitors and locals – safe. Some of you may, I know, end up missing precious times with your own loved ones – as you help to meet the pressures of summer policing – and I want to thank you for all that you do.
I’d like to finish this week by asking readers and the wider public to play their part in helping the police meet these challenges over the summer. As you would expect given the dramatic increase in our population over the summer, the volume of calls that the police receive to the non-emergency 101 number also goes up significantly.
While I don’t wish to dissuade people from calling the police if they need help – and would always encourage people in an emergency to dial 999 for help – if the issue is not urgent there are some excellent alternative ways to contact the police.
Crimes can be reported online at the Devon and Cornwall Police website or people can email the 101 team. A fantastic new information directory is also available online – called AskNED which provides information, advice and guidance on a wide range of topics and also signposts you to other organisations, like local councils, who may be better placed to assist with a specific issue. If you can – please think about using these options before dialling 101.
Enjoy the summer – but stay safe and remember, if you can ‘click before you call’
Email 101 at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Report crime online at: https://services.devon-cornwall.police.uk/crimereporting/
AskNED can be found at: https://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/askned