Vulnerability- your answers to a difficult question
When members of my team and I went out to conduct our survey this summer, we were often met by some confused faces.
That’s because the question we asked was not straightforward – and was also far from palatable.
I wanted to find out what Dorset residents thought about a sensitive area, and one that a huge amount of police resources is geared towards – vulnerability.
The abuse, exploitation and neglect of children or vulnerable adults who may be less able to speak up for themselves is completely unacceptable, and any right thinking person would be horrified by it.
But sadly, this is something that happens on a regular basis and the extent of it is something forces across the country, as well as here in Dorset, are trying to grapple with.
We have a dedicated team of officers working for the Dorset Police Public Protection Unit, responsible for investigating incidents concerning vulnerable people, but all frontline officers frequently come into contact with vulnerability as part of their day to day work.
I wanted to start a conversation with Dorset residents, helping inform them about the work the police do in this area and make them think about how difficult it is to decide where badly stretched resources and funding should go.
We held more than 1,000 face-to-face discussions with residents over the summer, attending events such as the Dorset County Show, Bourne Free, and Weymouth Armed Forces Day celebrations, as well as going to supermarkets across the county.
The question we asked was, of the six main areas of vulnerability we outlined, which three were of most concern to them and their communities.
We gave the policing definition of each of the six recognised forms of vulnerability – domestic abuse, sexual offences, missing people, vulnerable adults, child abuse, and human trafficking/ modern slavery.
This was not an easy choice, and of course there were no right or wrong answers, but the question certainly got people thinking – about the difficult choices involved in modern policing and the decisions that myself, the chief constable and other senior officers have to make.
Those surveyed prioritised the following:
- child abuse – 83%
- domestic abuse – 59%
- sexual offences – 50%
- vulnerable adults – 48%
- human trafficking – 37%
- missing people – 24%
While this showed a clear concern for child abuse and domestic abuse it certainly did not mean those who responded didn’t care about the others.
In fact, one of the most frequent comments we received was this was a difficult choice and it was almost impossible to pick just three.
Nor does it mean that we will now make any stark or knee-jerk decisions based solely on these results. However, it has helped me widen my knowledge and understanding of what the people of Dorset think is important.
This is certainly not the end of the process of talking the public. I will now be sharing the results with Dorset Police, who are about to hold their own broader consultation about people’s views.
The Your Dorset survey, launched online later this month, will put the public in the role of someone holding the Force’s purse strings, asking them to make decisions about where they would spend money across a wide range of areas – from counterterrorism to roads policing and rural crime.
The two surveys will be among the many interactions that will help inform the next Police and Crime Plan – which will be at the heart of all the activity carried out by my office and Dorset Police as we move into the next decade.
I’d like to thank all those who took part in my survey and would encourage anyone to visit the Dorset Police website and follow the links to Your Dorset.
We live in uncertain times, and as policing continues to adapt and evolve in response to new threats, it’s more important than ever that we talk and listen to what the public have to say.