On Thursday last week people around the country should have been turning out to the polls to take part in police and crime commissioner and local authority elections.
What now seems a long time ago, at the beginning of March, the Government took the highly unusual step of postponing the elections and Police and Crime Commissioners were given another year in the job.
Well before the full lockdown was announced it had become clear that holding an election, with its ballot boxes, polling booths and counts, could not happen without risking further spread of Covid-19.
I will be privileged to serve the residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for another 12 months, and do so in the knowledge that although we have come a long way - our force area now has less reported crime than all but one of 43 in the country - there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
So here I have laid out my main priorities for the year ahead.
Policing during the lockdown has brought the challenges before us into sharp relief.
There’s less traffic on the roads, but we’ve had several incidents with tragic consequences, including several fatal collisions. A significant amount of work has gone into a strategy and the forming of a partnership with local authorities and emergency services, but now the real work to reduce casualties on our roads must begin.
Thankfully there have been few crimes involving serious violence, but these few, such as a suspected murder in Cornwall, have been shocking in their brutality. The Violence Prevention Centre funded through a rise in this year’s council tax precept will improve our understanding of this problem and improve our response to it.
The necessity for more officers, and frontline police staff to support them in what is geographically the largest force area in the country, has not dissipated, and if UK holidays are permitted this summer and foreign trip remain impossible, the summer policing challenge might be the biggest Devon and Cornwall has faced.
With politicians of all colours I have helped to deliver the #InvestingInPolice campaign to Westminster last year, highlighting the problem that we face with more domestic tourists than any other force in England and Wales, and I will continue to make our presence felt in the corridors of power to fight for the resources we need and deserve.
Working with partners to deliver swift justice will be more pressing than ever, as the Covid-19 response has delayed numerous jury trials. The prison release scheme piloted and funded by my office, and the scheme that will see offenders building affordable homes for people in Devon and Cornwall, will help reduce the revolving door of reoffending and homelessness, but we must continue to work with the prison and probation services to completely reform the way that offenders are dealt with. Reducing reoffending rates and finding offenders something meaningful to do with their time makes us all safer.
Our Victim Care Unit, which I commission, has remained up and running throughout the Covid-19 crisis, and in partnership with a network of third sector specialists provided support, guidance and advice to numerous victims of crime. Ensuring this expertise is available at the right time and in the right manner remains vital.
Our programme of scrutinising our force through custody visiting and independent panels which have examined use of police powers and, in the past fortnight, the application of Covid-19 powers, have helped assure officers and the public that these are being applied appropriately, and this programme of scrutiny will expand to cover other areas of policing.
Perhaps most importantly ensuring that the public feel connected to the police force that they fund, that they can access the service they need, and feel confident in reporting crime, remains important to so many of the people I meet or whose correspondence I deal with.
Of course, more matters for our attention will arise as the year unfolds but with these priorities at the fore I will remain at your service through what I hope will be a strong recovery from this dreadful disease for our country and our region.
If you are a victim of crime and need help and support please call Victim Support on 08081689111 or live chat on the website victimsupport.co.uk. To report a crime in a non emergency you can webchat or report online at dc.police.uk or call 101. In an emergency dial 999.