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Rise in police dealing with mental health

Friday, February 14th, 2020 2:47pm

By Daniel Clark, Local Democracy Reporting Service

There was also an increase of over half in attendance at hospitals.

The amount of time police officers spent supervising an individual with mental health difficulties in Devon and Cornwall rose by 14 per cent in 2018/19.

Figures presented to the Police and Crime Panel on Friday showed that in the last year, police officers recorded a total time of 8,738 hours (nearly 365 days) as supervising an individual with mental health difficulties.

This was up 14 per cent on the 2017/18 figures, but included a 55 per cent increase in hours supervising them at a place of safety and a 58 per cent increase in attendance at hospitals.

The report of Fran Hughes, Chief Executive Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, explained that Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner, was continuing to work with health partners to seek solutions to these challenges.

It added: “She will hold them to account for how the investment of £2.3 billion from the government in 2019 will support people suffering from mental health, in particular specific investments on mental health ambulances and a 24/7 telephone service which we were informed by Ministers are part of that overall package.”

Information on levels of serious violence and mental ill health and police attendance at A&E had been requested by the Panel at its meeting in September 2019.

The report outlined that in the 12 months to September 30, 2019, there was a 0.3 per cent decrease in total recorded crime for the area, compared to an 5.3 per cent increase national, and that Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was one of only six policing areas in the country which saw a reduction in recorded crime levels in this period.

Devon and Cornwall had the 3rd lowest rate of crime in England and Wales out of 42 police forces, and the lowest rate of residential burglary offences and the second lowest rate of theft offences.

But the report said that levels of violence with injury have increased by five per cent in the year compared to a one per cent increase nationally and that levels of domestic abuse and the links between alcohol and violence remain areas of concern.

It added: “Around one third of all cases of violence with injury were identified as domestic abuse incidents and alcohol was flagged as a factor in 32 per cent of cases of violence with injury.”

In the most recent data, released on January 23, 2020, the figures show a 15 per cent reduction in serious violence compared to the previous year, but that recent increases in knife crime, homicides, domestic abuse and rape all highlight the importance of proactive and decisive action n serious violence, the report says.

Mrs Hughes’ report adds: “Devon and Cornwall Police’s review of serious violence in 2018 highlighted that most serious violence impacts predominantly on male victims aged between 18 to 36 years old (3 in every 4 crimes), female victims are much more likely to experience most serious violence in a domestic context (50 per cent) compared to males (11 per cent), around a third of offences appear to have been aggravated by alcohol, and 75 per cent of offences occur between 6pm and 6am.

“The Peninsula Crime Analysts Network examined rising levels of serious violence in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as part of the development of the 2019/20 Peninsula Strategic Assessment (PSA) which was finalised in December 2019. This looked at recorded crime for the year 2018/19 and observed rises in serious violence in all areas with the exception of Torbay which remained stable.

“The significant increase in proactive activity right across the geography to tackle organised drug supply, including county lines, can be observed in the increased levels of recorded crime being seen in the areas of drugs offences and also possession of weapons. Apprehending offenders and removing weapons from circulation are an important step in keeping our communities safer.

“While we have seen a reduction in levels of serious violence in the most recent data it is important that our work in tackling violence continues to develop. The Commissioner is concerned about levels of violence in their broadest form right across our communities.

“Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has a higher rate of violence with injury than the national average and sees significant seasonality peaks as well as increasing levels of rape and domestic abuse. If we are to protect communities and stop these crimes from occurring we need a significant and sustained partnership focus. In recognition of this the Commissioner has made specific proposals with regards to tackling violence as part of the budget proposal.”

As part of Alison Hernandez’s budget plans, £1m would be invested in the innovative new preventative centre which will tackle the violence that is blighting lives across the country and will pay for experts who will get to the root causes of violence and sexual offending, with the aim to prevent people from getting involved in violence across Devon and Cornwall.

Her budget, which included a £9.36 rise in the precept, was agreed, when the Panel did not choose to exercise their veto. Ten of the 13 members in the room did wish to veto it, but procedural rules mean that two thirds of the entire Panel, not just those in attendance, must vote in favour of a veto before it is exercised.

With 19 members on the Panel, although six didn’t attend the meeting, all 13 members in the room would have needed to vote in favour of a veto for it to have happened.

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