The appalling crimes committed against women both in Devon and Cornwall and across the country rose to prominence three years ago and meant this issue had to be addressed by central government, local government and policing.
Although our force area is one of the safest in the country, the latest figures available, for the year to September 2022, showed a significant increase in reports of sexual offences. While this rise cannot be reliably used to track trends because of improvements in the way such crimes are recorded, it does show that there is a significant number of perpetrators, and victims, of such offences.
One such offence is too many and I am committed to making Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly safer for women and girls.
With my support Devon and Cornwall Police is working hard on a number of levels to prevent these crimes occurring in the first place and to secure more convictions when sexual offences do occur.
Since the Home Office launched its Safer Streets fund in January 2022 Plymouth has been awarded £1.8million, Exeter £1.2million, Torquay £750,000, Barnstaple £349,000, Truro £665,000 and Falmouth £66,000. Much of this money was obtained by my team but all is designed to create safer environments for our residents though things like enhanced CCTV, better street lighting and education programmes.
Last week we heard that the Government had exceeded its target of recruiting an additional 20,000 police officers over three years, and in Devon and Cornwall we are at record force strength of 3,610 officers. This investment enables the new Chief Constable to carry out more high-profile projects like Operation Loki, which shows law abiding residents – and criminals - that police are back in their streets.
It's also vital that when sexual offences happen the best quality care and support is given to victims and criminal cases are given the best chance of succeeding so the culprits can be locked up.
But the police also need those who have survived rape and sexual offences to help them improve. Op Soteria Bluestone is a national collaboration between police and the most qualified and talented academics in their fields. The aim is to develop a new operating model for the investigation and prosecution of rape and serious sexual assault cases.
We must ensure that victims of rape and serious sexual assaults are provided with care and support and have the confidence to report these crimes to the police.
That’s why, as part of the work going on to support Op Soteria Bluestone, I would like to invite you to take part in and share an online survey. The survey is led by a Professor at City University in London and aims to gauge the current experience of victim-survivors through the police process.
All victims of rape and other sexual offences aged 18 and over whose case the police know about are invited to complete the survey. Your case may have just started, been ongoing for some time, or be closed - but no matter what your situation may be - we want to listen to all victim and survivors. Your responses will help us understand how the police process feels to victims of rape and other sexual offences and the findings will be used to make improvements.
You can complete this survey online in your own time, at your own pace, and in a place that feels safe and comfortable to you. It should take no more than 15 minutes to complete and can be found online at www.devonandcornwall-pcc.gov.uk.