The Police and Crime Commissioner’s engagement team in Exeter on Thursday, December 14
Of 22 issues mentioned in my annual policing survey it has come out top for a number of years – and early indications from this year’s survey suggest that will remain the case when we get the final results in January.
One of the reasons ASB remains such a persistent problem is that it takes such a variety of forms – some is dealt with by council officers and some is criminal behaviour which should be directed towards police.
Anyone underestimating the impact of ASB on people should think again – left to escalate it can result in some of the most serious crimes being committed. The charity ASB Help will point out some appalling examples, including the harassment and eventual murder of an entirely innocent man.
Since 2020 bids to the Government’s Safer Streets fund, many of them co-ordinated by my office, have netted £5.6m to tackle ASB and make cities and town centres across Devon and Cornwall safer for women and girls.
Enforcement and policing are clearly part of the solution and I have been keen to support action on this front, funding training to 332 police officers and front-line staff, 81 housing officers and 137 housing officers so they are confident of the legal powers granted to them to tackle those who insist on behaving in a way that negatively impacts on others.
I am delighted with the force’s response to ASB since I made it a priority in my police and crime plan too. Operation Loki – a high visibility response to rises in ASB after the pandemic - was launched earlier this year.
Policing teams in locations including Truro, Falmouth, Plymouth and Exeter took part in this drive to get back to the basics of dealing with street-level nuisance and criminality using a hot-spot policing approach. Loki resulted in 156 arrests, 300 person and vehicle stops and 30,000 positive interactions with the community by November 2023.
A second round of Loki is taking place in Exeter over the next few weeks, where the focus is on street drinking, aggressive begging and drug dealing – issues which really impact on residents of the city and visitors who are enjoying festive shopping and nights out.
My team were in the city centre there, talking to people about their concerns as part of our annual survey into attitudes into policing, and ASB remains a big concern amongst them, and the officers in the neighbourhood team.
In just three and a half days the city team had stopped and searched five people, seized drugs from two and confiscated five weapons. This work is not easy, with one officer assaulted in the course of her duty, but such action keeps the rest of us safe and helps maintain Devon and Cornwall as the safest force area in the country.
While some problems remain I was pleased to learn that Exeter and Plymouth have been named as the UK cities which are toughest on crime, which a higher rate of charge following arrest than others.
Analysis of crimes reported in cities by the legal company Lawhive showed in November that police in Exeter had the highest percentage of suspects charged from June 2022 to June 2023. Out of 1,423 incidents reported to the police in that time frame, 20.1% resulted in someone being charged.
Plymouth came in second place having a charge rate of 16.85% out of 3,063 reports.
Undoubtedly it will take more rounds of Op Loki, hundreds more arrests and a concerted effort between partners before ASB ceases to be people’s top concern in Devon and Cornwall. But I am heartened that robust action is now being taken by the force to address the issues which so many of us feel so strongly about.
If you have yet to tell me what you think about policing in Devon and Cornwall there is still time to have your say on my Your Safety, Your Say survey. Click here to answer the questions online or call my office on 01392 225555.