One Year On...
I have been the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner for just over a year now and I would very much like to thank the people of Dorset for electing me and giving me the honour and privilege to be their PCC. I am very clear that the primary role of the job is to represent the needs of the people of Dorset.
After three years as a candidate, 50 face to face meetings, three surveys and countless online meetings it was clear to me that Dorset residents wanted something different.
The promises made in my election material, are a golden thread, and were put straight into action through a 100-day plan, this plan immediately allowed 50 actions to be taken. Some of these actions were public ones, like the introduction Op Relentless aimed at tackling ASB and Op Vigilant, which saw police officers protect vulnerable victims and prevent sexual offences taking place. The 100-day plan meant that when we came out of lockdown we had set in place a foundation for the wider-reaching Police and Crime Plan.
The golden thread continued into the Police and Crime Plan - linking the needs of the people of Dorset direct to policing. The Police and Crime Plan which was published in October 2021, several months ahead of schedule and sets out a consistent direction until 2029, and has provided a clear foundation for our Chief Constable, Scott Chilton to base his new ‘policing vision’ for the Force on.
That vision – a safe county for everyone - has a clear purpose, to be tough on crime, keep people safe, and put victims first. His vision dovetails perfectly with my Police and Crime Plan, and I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together over the coming years.
The plan and vision provides an unbreakable link direct from the needs of Dorset residents through the PCC and Chief Constable to the frontline of policing.
Aside from the launch of my new Police and Crime Plan, there have been a number of other big changes and developments in the last twelve months. Many of these are covered in more detail throughout the upcoming Annual Report.
One Year On from when I took up office, I particularly wanted to tell you about a few of the highlights of the year and the progress that has been made against the six priorities in my Police and Crime Plan to date.
Priority 1 – Cut Crime and ASB
Anti-social behaviour was of significant concern to residents across the county with Dorset having the second highest rate in the South outside London. I emphasised this to the police and they now have a priority to address ASB working with their local authority partners. This new priority is called Operation Relentless and focuses their endeavours in our communities.
Within my first 100 days in office, I supported this effort with the Op Relentless Community Fund to offer the opportunity to local charities and community groups to apply for funding for initiatives that reduce ASB and the fear of ASB.
My Office received 20 applications from across Dorset and, following an evaluation process, the decision was made to fund 10 initiatives totalling £34,000.
Of the ten initiatives that were funded there were schemes to work with young people and with repeat ASB offenders as well as schemes to improved police visibility in the local community, put up CCTV and secure a community premises which was associated with ASB & drugs.
The Op Relentless Community Fund is relaunched this year to help in exactly the same way.
Priority 2 – Make Policing More Visible and Connected
The public have consistently told me that this is an area of considerable importance to them, and I want to ensure residents know their local police, see them around and can contact them when necessary.
Some of this is about resources and investment and we are just beginning to see the effects of the first tranche of the uplift programme with 44 of the new officers going directly into policing our communities and neighbourhoods.
Reporting is an area that I would like to see transformed and we are ensuring long overdue investment is being put into that area. Generally, we need greater efficiency and less bureaucracy not least for our frontline officers who we need out and about on our streets and mobile technological solutions will help with that.
Alongside the effective use of the police uplift programme and better mobile technology, a key consideration for me has been how do we get greater connectivity and visibility in our communities.
The Estates Futures Programme will consider how police presence can be increased in local stations and behind front desks, as well as how the Force can think more flexibly about making sure officers are out and about, able to see and be seen by the public. This includes the consideration of new options in some of the county’s more rural locations, where residents can be especially frustrated about how they can make face-to-face contact with police officers.
Priority 3 – Fight Violent Crime and High Harm
Regarding Drugs and Violence - I have to mention two big policing Operations here – Op Scorpion and Op Viper.
Op Scorpion, saw fervent police activity across the whole of the south west region to tackle drug related crime, catch drug dealers and disrupt the supply of drugs into the cities, towns, and villages of the entire region.
Under the auspices of this Operation, for the first time, all five PCCs – from Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Avon and Somerset came together with a shared intent - to work together to tackle drug related criminality and exploitation.
All the PCCs agreed with their respective Chief Constables that their Forces would combine operational powers to tackle cross border drugs supply, drug-related crime and associated anti-social behaviour (ASB) and the results were impressive – in Dorset alone, there were muiltple arrests, a number of weapons including tasers and machetes seized, 17 disruptions linked to 36 vulnerable members of the community, around £100,000 was also seized and 6 County Lines were disrupted.
Dorset also now has its own dedicated and proactive operation - Op Viper set to target criminality, take drugs off our streets, share intelligence, and protect the vulnerable.
There is a new team behind Op Viper, the Neighbourhood Enforcement Team, and they are working closely with existing Neighbourhood Policing Teams to provide visibility, proactive enforcement, and community engagement.
I am delighted to see the priorities of my Police and Crime Plan ‘in action’ in the shape of the new team and I applaud the quick successes that they have already had – the statistics speak for themselves – an estimated £100,000 of illegal drugs seized, vehicles seized, 29 arrests made, 10 children protected – and all in the first six weeks of Op Viper hitting the ground.
This priority also covers other areas including Violence Against Women and Girls, domestic abuse, stalking and other hidden harms.
In the summer of 2021, the OPCC partnered with Dorset Council to bid to the Home Office Safer Streets Fund, which was launched to fund initiatives that support the prevention of crimes relating to violence against women and girls, such as misogyny, stalking, drink spiking, sexual assault, and rape. Initiatives were to work around awareness and safety and identification of perpetrators.
Dorset Council was subsequently awarded the full requested amount, £379,766. Following this success, Dorset Council progressed to deliver the initiatives, holding an Empowerment and Bystander awareness course at Weymouth College in January 2022, attended by local businesses, students, local authority, Police and OPCC.
Further to this success, I also commissioned the provision of the Independent Stalking Advocate Caseworker with the You Trust. This is a service that supports victims of stalking offences, helping to reduce the risk of harm and increase safety.
Priority 4 - Fight Rural Crime
The need to increase the the number and capabilities of the Rural Crime Team was a priority that I raised with Dorset Police and I am delighted that in one year that team has been significantly increased. This will increase Dorset Police’s reach and capability to fight rural, wildlife and heritage crime.
The Rural Crime Reduction Board (RCRB) was implemented in early 2022, with an aim to make Dorset the safest County and lead the way in preventing and reducing rural crime. The purpose of the Board is to oversee the delivery of the key actions to achieve the outcomes for Priority 4 of the Police and Crime Plan: Fight Rural Crime. The RCRB will act as a conduit for the integration of work with other strategic partnerships, boards, and groups – ensuring clarity of responsibilities and all key priorities are addressed. This will include the development of strategic themes and projects to tackle topical issues, e.g: the prevention of rural crime, rural theft, wildlife crime, fly tipping, and related organised crime, and strengthen rural watch schemes.
Priority 5 – Put Victims and Communities First
Business crime is a priority within the Police and Crime Plan as businesses are affected by a wide range of criminality such as: theft, ASB, cyber-crime and fraud, commercial burglary and violence against shopworkers.
Since taking office, I have engaged with businesses as I have been has consistently told that this is an area of considerable importance to them and requires improved focus, action and attention in Dorset.
Priority 6 – Make Every Penny Count
I was pleased that I had the support of the majority of Dorset citizens to increase the amount of money Dorset residents pay for their policing service. The Police and Crime Panel unanimously approved this increase but I am clear that if I ask for an increase it should be transparent where that money should go.
That funding will continue to be spent on strengthening neighbourhood policing, improving customer service – 101 and emergency response, investing in a new County Lines taskforce, increasing capability into protecting and safeguarding children, putting more resources into VAWG, expanding the Rural Crime Team and investing in digital evidence, improving crime investigation capability and victim care.
As I say, these are only a few highlights of the incredible amount of work that has been happening since I became your Police and Crime Commissioner, and I would encourage, in few weeks time to read the Annual Report on my website to find out more about what’s been happening.
Being your Police and Crime Commissioner is an immense privilege and I shall continue to serve the people of Dorset to the best of my ability to make Dorset the safest county.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner