As I explained last week Will Kerr OBE, the current Deputy Chief Constable of Police Scotland, is my preferred candidate for the job after an extensive selection exercise.
But he cannot take up the role until the representatives of the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel confirm the appointment at this meeting. The meeting was due to have been held on Friday but was adjourned out of respect for Her Late Majesty the Queen.
The recruitment exercise is just one of the decisions made by me that receive regular scrutiny at these quarterly meetings. They are open to press and public, streamed live online and minuted.
These councillors, voted to office by you, are adept at their role, asking probing questions relevant to their communities on everything from officer numbers to rural crime rates.
As well as a new prospective Chief Constable I will be taking with me copies of my newly-published annual report, detailing the work that took place in the last financial year to make progress against my Police and Crime Plan priorities of reducing violence, road deaths and injuries, antisocial behaviour and drug dealing in our communities.
My plan is linked to the issues that residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly told me most mattered to them.
The report details our strategy and performance data to show how we and our partners are performing. In relation to tackling drugs there was a significant effort. Devon and Cornwall Police still undertook 525 disruptions to county lines and dangerous drug networks. This included the first coordinated drugs disruption activity in the South West region of its kind, Operation Scorpion, in March 2022, with £432,000 worth of illegal drugs seized and 172 suspects arrested over a fornight of raids and car stops.
Levels of antisocial behaviour (ASB) were significantly affected by changes to Covid-19 legislation which saw them rise during the pandemic as more people stayed at home, so there was a significant decrease in the number of incidents recorded by Devon and Cornwall Police. The annual report details these and explains how we are working with others, such as the charity ASB Help, to assist those afflicted with appalling behaviours before they escalate and destroy lives.
Road safety remains an area where there is still so much to be done. Sadly a reduction in traffic on our roads was not accompanied by a similar reduction in harm caused. In 2021 48 people lost their lives on the roads in our force area and 647 people were seriously injured, a 9% and 4% increase respectively. This is an area where under Vision Zero South West we are working with partners to turn around. It is an set of statistics illustrating a terrible human toll that all road users can do their bit to help with.
My annual report, which went before the last Police and Crime Panel meeting in draft form, also underlines how we are taking a partnership approach to reduce the violent crime that has blighted some sectors of our communities for too long. The prospect of being able to break cycles of violent crime offers a great opportunity to help people, particularly the young, who are at risk of having their lives blighted by violence.
Underpinning and essential to the delivery of this work are the police officers, staff and volunteers who work for us to maintain our force area as one of the safest in the country.
The finance section of the report details how, with the help of our taxpayers who paid more through their police precept, we remained on track to have more officers in Devon and Cornwall Police than we have ever had, a target we should hit this financial year.
It also explains the innovative commissioning work that provided more help to victims of crime and prevented perpetrators from reoffending.
Much was done to improve the safety and security of residents of our part of the country in the year that the country came out of Covid-19 restrictions. But much remains for the Chief Constable and I to get on with to further improve the service the police and our commissioned services deliver to you.
If you’d like to understand more about my work and that of my office then you can read the report online here or request a hard copy from my office. The Police and Crime Panel meeting will be streamed live from Plymouth City Council’s website.