Funded by Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez as a major part of her investment in summer policing, the force has partnered with experts from First Light in Cornwall and Plymouth Domestic Abuse Services (PDAS).
Commissioner Hernandez is responsible for commissioning services which protect and support victims and this project aims to build victims’ confidence so police have a better chance of taking formal action and bringing offenders to justice.
A dedicated unmarked vehicle will see an independent domestic violence advisor (IDVA) (Plymouth) or a specialist domestic abuse support worker (Cornwall) and a plain clothes police officer deployed together to any domestic abuse incident.
This will deliver an immediate response to incidents of domestic abuse at the most critical point providing the best support to the victim, whilst at the same time enabling officers to gather quality evidence of offences and to provide a thorough risk assessment.
Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez, said: “We have invested significantly in this project because I feel it is essential to get the right support to victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence at the right time.
“By sending dedicated specialist officers to this type of incident it also releases the pressure on officers elsewhere which is so important during the busy summer period.
“Police officers have seen how effective this approach is in tackling domestic abuse in other police forces throughout the country. Our aim is to protect any victim of domestic abuse from further harm and to bring offenders to justice.”
The unmarked car will work at between 4pm and 2am Friday’s and Saturdays. One will be based in Newquay and the other based at Charles Cross police station in Plymouth city centre.
Superintendent Sharon Donald who is the force lead for Domestic Abuse said: “With this timely and dedicated response we aim to be there at the right time so that we can make a difference. Over this three-month period we will be looking to make sure we see the same results in Plymouth and Cornwall that other forces have seen. This car gives us the opportunity to provide a timely and dedicated response, so that we can make a difference.”
In its first two weekends the team attended eight incidents across Plymouth and Cornwall.
At one incident in Plymouth, the victim did not engage with the response officers who arrived on scene first, but the safeguarding team were able to take a statement and complete a full risk assessment. At another incident in Cornwall, the team made sure the victim was safe and brought a charge against the suspect who was remanded in custody.
Both Plymouth Domestic Abuse Services and First Light for Cornwall provide support for men, women and children who need advice and support for those experiencing domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Katy Fisher, local service manager at Sanctuary Supported Living’s Plymouth Domestic Abuse Services, said: “We’re really pleased to have the pilot up and running in Plymouth. By getting to some of the most high-risk domestic abuse victims at this critical time we can give them the support they need straight away and start to help them rebuild their lives”.
Mel Francis, service manager at First Light, said: “We are excited to be working in collaboration with the police on this fantastic pilot which will enable victims to gain confidence to access support in the future and be empowered to make choices for a positive change.’’
This initial project in Cornwall and Plymouth will run for three months and will be evaluated by an independent consultative review.