I’m sure many of you will have read or heard about the people from Vietnam found in the back of a van by police on the M5, as it was covered widely by the press. These individuals had arrived in Newlyn in the morning and were being driven out of our counties when they were stopped. The victims rescued from the van are now being cared for by support agencies.
Human trafficking and modern slavery are horrendous crimes and it is vitally important that we all work together to tackle them. The police work hard to ensure that officers have the right skills, knowledge and intelligence flows to detect these crimes and catch the perpetrators.
I am proud that the centre of that national effort is right here in Devon and Cornwall with the Modern Slavery Police Transformation Unit in Exmouth, under the leadership of our Chief Constable. The public also has a role to play in helping us eradicate this crime and I urge anyone who has a concern that someone is a victim of modern day slavery to call the Police, Crimestoppers or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121700 to report it.
An incident like this also highlights the challenges of policing an area such as ours. As well as towns, cities and rural communities to protect, according to Ordnance Survey there is about 1,400 miles of coastline. In fact, we are the only force in the country to be surrounded by water on three of our borders with only one way to go to seek extra help.
It really is a unique challenge we have to deal with.
Of course this is not the first time Newlyn has been in the headlines. Last summer one of the biggest seizures of Class A drugs by UK authorities happened there.
We are not a ‘soft touch’ here in the south west and we will continue to push the message loud and clear that trafficking of any kind will not be tolerated in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
However, with summer fast approaching and millions of people flocking to our wonderful counties we have additional challenges to face. A huge spike in traffic collisions, an increase in missing people and more domestic incidents are just a few examples.
We want people to come and enjoy the best of what our region has to offer and tourism is the backbone of our economy but it is my responsibility, and that of the chief constable, to ensure we have a force that can ensure holidaymakers and our residents are safe.
The chief constable and I will be strongly making the case for additional funding to the Government to cope with the surge in demand that we receive during the summer months. Currently police forces across the country are funded based on their resident population, which for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is 1.7 million, and does not take into consideration any influx of tourists.
Estimates from a few years ago put tourist numbers at approximately 11 million for our region, but since then the AirBnB phenomenon, coupled with the uncertainty that Brexit brings, has led to an increase that no one seems to have precisely calculated.
It cannot be right that our funding does not reflect the annual pressures on frontline policing which is becoming increasingly financed by us as local council taxpayers. 41% no less. Nor does it reflect the associated increase in offenders and victims which the chief constable and the Force have to manage within a resource base designed for 1.7 million people.
We are not alone in feeling the strain from these additional visitors - all our partners in public service and the NHS are in same situation. That’s why we are asking for a Special Grant from the Home Office to help us deal with the summer policing challenge.
Although we are actively recruiting and training more officers paid for with the increase in our council tax this year, the Force still needs more resources to cope with this dramatic increase from May to September.
The chief constable and I are working together to secure extra funding from the Special Grant which I hope will be part of a solution that maintains Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as two of the safest counties and islands in the country to live, work or visit.