Ensuring that policing is effective and public money spent efficiently is an important part of my job, so it is vital that my team and I have a good understanding of data and statistics.
These numbers tell policing where to put its resources, let us know how effective our services for those affected by crime are, assist our scrutiny of the force and give us a good understanding of risk.
So it was fascinating to hear Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter – one of the country’s leading statisticians – discussing his analysis of Covid-19 deaths recently.
There is a considerable debate as to the effectiveness of lockdowns in saving life versus the damage that they caused to the economy and people’s mental health, but Prof Spiegelhalter’s surprise finding was that they are estimated to have saved the lives of around 300 young people.
These are people who in the same period without restrictions would have been expected to have been killed in incidents like road traffic collisions or crimes that never occurred because we were all at home.
Does the professor therefore believe that we should continue to keep young people at home to reduce the risk for them? Of course not, and neither do I.
This time last year English children faced a slew of regulation as lockdown three gripped the country. Just 13m people had received their first vaccination (it seemed like a large number at the time but not now) and the Government was telling people to minimise time spent outside the home, limit exercise to once a day and to stay inside their local area.
What a different situation there is now. A huge investment in a world leading vaccination programme has allowed restrictions to be all but removed. There are still times when we might choose to wear a face covering, but it is no longer a legal requirement, if you are fully vaccinated you no longer have to take a Covid test before or after you arrive in the UK, and, vitally for the South West economy, tourists are free to travel here.
February half term will deliver a much-needed shot in the arm to a tourism sector which so many of us rely on. And as our children return to something approaching normality and longer daylight hours show us that spring is virtually upon us, we would expect to see calls for help to our police and victim services rise steadily towards a peak in the middle of summer.
Part of this activity is because our force area attracts so many visitors, but it is local residents who also place significant demand on our emergency services.
The budget that our Police and Crime Panel have just approved a budget that will see a £500,000 additional investment into the Devon and Cornwall Police contact centres. Further resilience to this service will be added to the 101 non emergency contact centres as the force recruits more public inquiry officers to staff the reopening of certain police stations to the public.
This additional investment will help cope with what has been a steady rise in people using these services over recent years.
But the force cannot manage this increase in calls for service without our help, and we can all do our bit to reduce demand on the police, ambulance and fire crews, by exercising just a little caution on our roads and in our neighbourhoods.
These police officers, firefighters and medics have just worked flat out around the clock to keep Devon and Cornwall going as it was battered by Storm Eunice. And while most heeded the red weather warning and stayed indoors some took unreasonable risks such as sea swimming in huge waves and driving high sided vehicles on exposed roads.
Not only does such behaviour place the participant in danger but it also sucks up resources that might be required elsewhere.
So as many of us will be enjoying a well-deserved break and venturing out and about this half term, my plea is a simple one – please be considerate to one another and think twice before taking risks that radically increase the chances of being hurt.
And of course, if you do need help, our emergency services will always be by your side.
If you have been a victim of crime please report it to police, in an emergency call 999 or in a non emergency call 101, webchat or email the police via devon-cornwall.police.uk. Alternatively, to stay 100% anonymous, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or call Freephone 0800 555 111.
Victims of Crime can get free expert advice 24 hours a day from Victim Support on 08 08 16 89 111 or via victimsupport.org.uk.