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Sharing your vision of a connected and visible police force

I’d like to start the first column of the new year with a thank you to all of you who took the time over the last couple of months to give me your view on policing.

Sharing your vision of a connected and visible police force

Completing a survey at an Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner engagement event in Exeter

More than 2,000 residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly completed the Your Safety, Your Say survey either face to face with my engagement team, online or over the phone over the last few weeks.

The results help me plan for the year ahead and understand what really matters when it comes to policing and community safety. Seeking your views is one of my core statutory duties, and it is one I take seriously.

As we look ahead to 2024 my team will be putting the finishing touches on the Devon and Cornwall Police budget for 2024-25, and the results of this survey will help the Acting Chief Constable and I ensure your views are reflected in our plans.

Shortly before Christmas the Home Office presented me with a provisional grant settlement which indicates how much money the force will have. It also enabled Police and Crime Commissioners to raise the policing element of the council tax – the precept – by a maximum of £13 for a band D household without holding a referendum. Whatever this amount is set at will increase for those in higher band properties and be less in A to C households (which is the majority of those in our force area).

Full budget plans will be published in papers which go to the first Police and Crime Panel meeting of 2024, which takes place on February 4 and summary of the survey results will be included in these papers.

I can, however, give you some indication of what the public told me this year.

Confidence levels in our force remain broadly similar to previous years, with confidence in Devon and Cornwall’s Policing services greater than that in the UK’s policing services as a whole.

In terms of contact, more people this year told me they were using digital services to get in touch with the force, which is great because this frees up resources for those who prefer to use the phone, which perhaps explains significant reductions in the amount of time it takes to get through on 999 or the non-emergency number 101.

Support for my scheme to reopen police station front desks remains high, with 62% of respondents saying they agree more money should be invested in this project and just 18% disagreeing (the rest were neutral). More than a third picked a ‘police station which is open to the public’ as their first or second choice from a list of eight community assets.

In terms of what is troubling residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, antisocial behaviour was selected by more than half of respondents, with my other police and crime plan priorities of drugs, road safety and violence well represented. In the past few years so much has been done to address these issues, but the survey results show that police and partners must continue to bear down on them.

This year, for the first time, I asked people to describe a vision of a future police force they would like to see keeping us all safe. The key themes which emerged are very much aligned to my own vision of a force which tackles issues in the community before they escalate. One in which officers have the time to engage and connect with the people they serve, one where people feel confident enough to confide in the force and work alongside it to help vulnerable people and hold criminals to account for their actions.

I will bear this vision in mind as I work with our Acting Chief Constable to create a service which maintains record police officer numbers and strives to maintain its place as the force with the lowest recorded crime rate in England and Wales.