While incidents of serious crime are quick grab the headlines, it is often what might be viewed as less violent crimes which also have significant and long-lasting effect on individuals and their communities.
When you participated in my survey in 2021 ahead of setting the priorities in my Police and Crime Plan, antisocial behaviour (ASB) came out as the biggest concern, ahead of drugs, violence and road safety.
These types of incidents are so close to home, visible in daily life, and sometimes personally directed, and more must be done to tackle sometimes deep-rooted issues, reclaim public spaces, and help communities feel safer.
It is unacceptable that people are being prevented from living their lives in peace, free of the fear and distress crime and ASB can cause.
And all too often, if left unchecked, ASB can escalate to the point where the most serious crimes are committed.
It can all start with intimidating behaviour from a neighbour, who may even be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which can escalate to criminal damage to your property or verbal threats to your safety. What we have found is where there are higher levels of ASB, there is also other crimes present such as car crime, robbery, burglary and violence.
One of the many successes my office has achieved over the past few years is securing almost £5m for Devon and Cornwall communities from the Government’s Safer Streets Fund.
This money has been allocated over four rounds of funding linked to the Government’s Beating Crime plan and has allowed Police and Crime Commissioners to support local authorities to bid for investment in making areas where people feel unsafe spaces they can enjoy once again, and feel proud of by cutting homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crime.
I am pleased to see the work which has been undertaken in Plymouth, Exeter, Torquay, Truro, Falmouth and Barnstaple by some incredible partnerships have made and continue to make a huge difference to people’s lives.
The online StreetSafe tool tells me where you feel less safe and why. Often it’s due to lack of CCTV or poor lighting, environmental factors that are not within my domain to fix, so Safer Streets has brought my office, the police and local authorities closer together to solve these problems.
Plymouth has been awarded £1.8million since the Home Office scheme was launched in January 2022. Exeter has secured £1.2million, Torquay £750,000, Barnstaple £349,000, Truro £665,000 and Falmouth £66,000.
New measures have ranged from improved street lighting, CCTV help points and more cameras to help people feel safe, murals and other public space improvements, youth engagement and small grants for home security those living in crime hotspots.
What I am especially proud of, however, is the work being undertaken through Safer Streets to prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG).
The horrendous murders of Lorraine Cox in Exeter in 2020 and Bobbi-Anne McLeod in Plymouth in 2021 are still fresh in the minds of many, let alone their families and friends, and I hope that some of the measures introduced in our towns and cities will go some way to protecting women and girls, allowing them to live their lives without fear of violence or harassment.
A Safety of Women at Night (SWaN) charter has been launched for hospitality venues in Exeter, as well as a new Safe Space for women at St Stephen’s Church in the city centre, and in Plymouth a night bus service was introduced alongside education in schools.
Bystander awareness training has been offered for venues in the night-time economy in Exeter, Plymouth, Truro, Falmouth and Barnstaple, a Safe Space set up in Truro, and a student-led VAWG group established at the University of Falmouth to encourage people not to turn away from their mates or peers being inappropriate towards women.
We know that by agencies working in partnership with communities and communicating more effectively we can achieve really positive results and show reductions in crime.
Safer Streets programmes are just some of the initiatives which show that targeted investment really can make an enormous difference in not only preventing crime but making our communities safer and helping each and every one of us live a life free of fear.
If there are areas where you feel unsafe and you want to tell us about them, then please use the Street Safe Tool where you can report concerns anonymously. My office and Devon and Cornwall Police use the data collected to target our resources more effectively and reduce the risks in communities. You can find it at http://bit.ly/3Il58Lw