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With more cops than ever it’s time to say no crime is tolerable

Last week I visited Downing Street for a celebration of the police uplift programme – the scheme that has seen a further 20,000 police officers added to forces’ ranks in England and Wales.

With more cops than ever it’s time to say no crime is tolerable

Outside Number 10 with A/CC Jim Colwell and new recruit PC Dimitra Stewart-Palapanou

In Devon and Cornwall this nationally-funded increase in officer numbers was combined with a locally-funded uplift which I launched a couple of years earlier. The result is that since I was elected to office in 2016 another 686 officers have started work in communities around our two counties. Total force strength now stands at 3,610 – a figure higher than at any other time in Devon and Cornwall Police’s history.

My attention, and that of our Acting Chief Constable and Government, has been focussed on getting people in and training them to the highest standards, it now has to be on ensuring that these officers are put to good use.

We must ensure that our communities’ extra investment in policing results in more crimes being investigated and greater public confidence in policing. Police forces have been rocked by scandals in recent months and years, but as damaging to policing as ‘rotten apples’ is the crime which is not investigated properly when there is evidence to identify a culprit.

It is completely understandable that people get frustrated when their stolen goods turn up in online sales, or they have to track down their own CCTV footage of a crime. The sense that police screen out so-called minor crime just has to stop.

All too often, the public feel that information they provide to police about a crime is not acted on. This must stop as it misses opportunities to solve crimes and bring perpetrators to justice. The public expect more than just being given a crime number when they report a crime. They want to see police taking visible action.

I strongly support the Government’s focus on a back-to-basics approach, which places catching criminals and supporting victims of crime at the forefront of the policing mission. And I was pleased to see the Home Secretary and Policing Minister ask Chief Constables to commit to follow all reasonable lines of enquiry for all crime types. No crime investigations should be screened out solely on the basis that they are perceived as “minor”.

This is vital because there is no such thing as a “minor” crime. If any crime type is unchecked, public confidence is undermined, an atmosphere of disorder and menace can rapidly develop and there is the likelihood of escalation to more serious or widespread offending. Offences such as shoplifting, mobile phone theft, car theft, criminal antisocial behaviour (ASB) and public drug possession all merit investigation where there is a reasonable line of enquiry to pursue, and prosecution where the evidence supports it.

Our communities understand that someone who shoplifts or steals a mobile phone is not committing that offence in isolation and must be dealt with.

Of course, if we want our bolstered ranks by officers who are free to relentlessly pursue criminals to make our neighbourhoods safer and improve public confidence in policing, we must make that their priority.

Often police are used when it would be more appropriate to use other services. There are instances when people in mental health crisis need a sworn officer there but mental health experts are more qualified and better trained to deal with most such incidents.

Our communities really want to see police tackling the antisocial behaviour that more than half of you told me in a survey was your priority. I was therefore pleased to see that the Government is making an extra £1m available to our force this year to tackle ASB. It is also asking that every frontline officer understands and is encouraged to embrace a culture of visible policing, and every force delivers police visibility that seeks to improve public confidence by targeting ASB hotspots. Neighbourhoods should feel safe, and the public should feel the benefit of police action in their community.

We have made the most significant investment in policing in generations and hit some extraordinary targets. This resource must now be used to send a message to our communities, and those who would seek to disturb our peaceful way of life, that crime and antisocial behaviour will not be tolerated – no matter what level it is on.