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Plan for Violent Crime Prevention Centre unveiled

Shaun Sawyer and Alison Hernandez want to invest £1m to tackle the violence that they say blights lives and has widespread repercussions for society.

The centre will be established in partnership between the commissioner and Devon and Cornwall Police. It will bring in experts from across social care and public health to get to the root cause of offending and intervene to prevent people from getting involved in violence.

The approach will be laid out at today’s meeting of the Police and Crime Panel in Plymouth.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said: “Violence, whether it is related to domestic abuse, drug gangs or young people feeling they need to carry a weapon, is a blight on communities and even a single incident can have an effect that lingers for many years.

“The best way to tackle it is by an evidence-based approach, using data to understand the detailed, as much as the generic, causes. Thereafter, to utilise resources across the public sector system to reduce and prevent crime.

“This so-called public health approach can also incorporate capabilities from the private sector and most importantly, third sector providers in the voluntary and charitable sector who have their own knowledge and expertise to bring to bear on these systemic community and familial issues.”

Commissioner Alison Hernandez said: “Traditional policing to tackle violence will of course always be needed and with the uplift in officers we will continue to do that. However, this is not a sustainable way to tackle the problem in the long term. Prevention is key.

“Violent crime blights all levels of society, from street stabbings related to the drugs trade to domestic abuse incidents that happen behind closed doors.

“Already this year there has been the devastating death of a young man in Cornwall and recorded crime statistics that showed a rise in possession of weapons.

“Our area has one of the lowest recorded crime rates in the country but violence is on the increase. We must understand why people resort to violence and work robustly and swiftly to prevent them from doing so, taking a public health approach to the problem and creating a prescription for change.”

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has already been supporting multi-agency partnerships that aim to reduce violence through early intervention, such as the Turning Corners project in South Devon. Evidence from other projects show that experiencing violence at a young age makes adults more likely to commit acts of violence themselves.

The OPCC summer survey last year clearly demonstrated that members of the public across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly would support additional investment to prevent crime from occurring in the first place.

A total of 8,631 members of the public were asked to select three areas which they would invest more in. Crime Prevention was the area that received the most support, followed by In My Neighbourhood.

Areas of focus for the centre could include reducing the number of homicides in the force area, domestic abuse related violence and violence relating to the exploitation of vulnerable victims and associated activity such as county lines and misuse of drugs.

The centre would be set up with some of the revenue raised through a rise in the police precept – the amount households pay for policing – of £9.36 per year (for a band D property). If given the green light by the panel the increase would raise an additional £5.7m for Devon and Cornwall Police’s 2020/21 annual budget.

The budget also makes available £500,000 for investment in greater collaboration with other emergency services, £150,000 for an innovation fund and £400,000 for improvements in the police estate.

The 2019/20 budget saw a £24 a year increase in the police precept for band D households, revenue raised contributed to an increase in force strength of 85 additional officers to take total force strength to 3,100 by March 2021. This cohort included 27 additional neighbourhood officers – one for each sector in the force – who are now in post.

An additional 141 officers will be added by the national uplift programme to take total force strength to 3,241 by March 2021.

The full budget proposals and a webcast of the Police and Crime Panel can be viewed here.