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Helping the Force connect with Dorset’s communities

Building close links between the police and the communities they serve is something that goes to the heart of what I am trying to achieve.

I speak to a lot of people across the county, and a common theme is they want to know who their local police officers are and what they’re doing.

Policing may have moved on massively over the last few decades – with more work now going on behind the scenes, as well as greater demand and stretched resources.

But one thing that will never change is the UK’s style of policing depends on the public having confidence in its local force – and that will only happen if they have genuine connections with those officers.

I created my Police and Crime Plan in 2016, based on thousands of interactions with residents, to form the basis for all activity carried out by my office and Dorset Police.

A large section was called Working With Our Communities, setting out a series of pledges to outline how we were going to put residents and their concerns at the centre of our work, and I’m glad to say these have now been achieved.

For example, the Neighbourhood Engagement Contract was created recently to ensure engagement with our communities  was not left to chance, and will be used to constantly assess how well our Neighbourhood Policing Teams – small groups of officers responsible for individual areas – are doing when it comes to interacting with the people they serve.

The Chief Constable set 10 minimum standards necessary for these teams to properly connect with their neighbourhoods – from face-to-face meetings to social media – so all officers and staff know what’s expected and understand that engagement is part of their job.

Each team has produced their own plan to show exactly what they will do, and my office will now continue to monitor and develop these plans.

Working with rural and maritime communities

Dorset’s rural and maritime communities are hugely important to the county, and I was proud to be able to achieve commitments benefiting both within my first 100 days in office.

The rural crime team, established to address concerns from people in more isolated parts of the county, has had great successes, including a number of successful prosecutions for poaching, arrests for tractor theft and an increase in the number of reports of suspicious activities, showing an improved confidence in the police from members of rural communities.

Their ‘Robocrop’ tractor – provided free of charge – has become a regular fixture at summer events, and this is just one example of how the team engages directly with the public, encouraging people to take simple steps to improve security on farms and in villages.

I also funded an extra post within the Dorset Police marine unit boosting their ability to improve safety along our 89 miles of coastline.

Helping vulnerable people 

Sadly, there are many vulnerable people within our communities, and one pledge that will help them is the creation of a bobby van scheme.

These are mobile units which have been incredibly successful elsewhere in reducing problems such as repeat burglary, with van operators doing everything from fitting new locks to providing advice about staying safe and linking vulnerable people up with other agencies – while providing a visible and reassuring presence.

Dorset’s own scheme is now about to get off the ground – look out for more news early in the new year.

Another important commitment, which links in with work I am doing around Protecting People At Risk Of Harm, was to create Dorset’s first Police Cadet Scheme.

I worked closely with the Chief Constable and the principal of the Bourne Academy to set up a unit in this Bournemouth school, and the idea was so popular – with so many young people coming forward to take part – we had to open a second one.

We’ve heard incredible stories about how units elsewhere have inspired young people, sometimes from troubled backgrounds, to turn their lives around – and I’m sure we will very soon be hearing about how these units have benefited our own communities.

I know the safety of our roads is of huge concern within our communities, and so many of these commitments dealt with issues from raising driver awareness about poor decision-making and commissioning road safety courses to lobbying to lower the drink driving limit.

Other pledges involved working with communities to ensure they were safe online, from continuing the pan-Dorset cyber crime awareness campaign and providing better support to businesses in dealing with online crimesto educating young people on issues such as online bullying and abuse.

Finding innovative solutions 

Many of the problems our communities face are much bigger than policing alone, requiring input from a range of organisations, so I have established a series of problem solving forums bringing experts together to find innovative solutions. These have looked at three very different issues – homelessness, fly tipping and county lines – and ideas generated during these events are now being put into action.

I’m confident that by achieving these pledges, we have helped make Dorset Police better able to connect with our communities. I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone in my team and across the Force who have worked so hard to achieve these goals.

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