David Sidwick, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner spoke passionately at the Dorchester Chamber for Business members breakfast in March. Here he updates on this priority projects.
Priority 1 – Cut Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour
Anti-social behaviour (ASB) 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 on 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. Those funded initiatives included schemes to work with young people and with repeat ASB offenders as well as schemes to improve police visibility in the local community, put up CCTV and secure a community premises which was associated with ASB and drugs.
The Op Relentless Community Fund has been relaunched this year to help in exactly the same way and you can find out more about it here.
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 that 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 must 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 Op Scorpion, 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 ASB. Results were impressive – in Dorset alone there were multiple 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 six county lines were disrupted.
Dorset now has its own dedicated and proactive operation – Op Viper – 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 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 RCRB 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. It will act as a conduit for the integration of work with other strategic partnerships, boards, and groups – ensuring clarity of responsibilities and that all key priorities are addressed. This will include the development of strategic themes and projects to tackle topical issues, eg 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.
You can read the Annual Report to find out even more about what has been happening. 2008 A.G.M. & Business Meeting (dorsetpccpolice.s3.amazonaws.com)