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Crime Commissioner reveals top priorities

Thursday, 18 April 2024 08:42

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

Alison Hernandez is “just getting started” (Image: Alison Hernandez)

What is the force's next goal?

Tackling rural crime and a radical solution to prevent domestic violence will be among Alison Hernandez’s top priorities if she is re-elected for a third term as police and crime commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Eight years into the job, Ms Hernandez, 50, says she is only just getting started on many of her projects.

These include the cross-border Operation Scorpion to crack down on county lines drugs operations and the ‘Prisoners Building Homes’ programme.

“We are trying to sort out some of the problems in society and we are just getting started,” she said.

“A lot of my energy during the last term has gone on Operation Scorpion and we have disrupted 4,000 drug operations in two years, working with the police and crime cimissioners across the south west.

“Prisoners Building Homes took three years to get off the ground. It started in my force area of Torquay and now we have a regional housebuilding programme.”

Currently 82 homes are being built across 14 developments by the scheme set up to allow prisoners to be employed by modular housing providers to build low carbon, homes for local communities and vulnerable people.

It aims to reduce reoffending by ensuring prisoners have the skills to help them get jobs when they are released.

“You need to understand the problem you are trying to solve, and in this case it is homelessness, because every time people reoffend the excuse you are given is that they haven’t got a home or a job and they go back into their old ways,” said Ms Hernandez.

The Torbay resident, who represents the Conservative party, will be going head-to-head with Labour party candidate Daniel Steel, 31, from Plymouth and Tiverton businessman Steve Lodge, 53, in the police and crime commissioner (PCC)  election on Thursday 2 May.

The role, which was created in 2012, holds the police to account and scrutinises their performance.

Mrs Hernandez, who previously worked in local and regional government heading community safety partnerships before taking over as police and crime commissioner from her Tory predecessor Tony Hogg in 2016, cites her achievements as getting the number of police officers to a  record high of 3,610, thanks to government funding and extra money from taxpayers.

She has added an extra £100 to council tax bills for police services in the eight years she has been commissioner.

Over the period, £5.5 million of ‘Safer Streets’ funding has been used to improve CCTV and street lighting,and to help to make women and girls feel safer, particularly in Exeter and Plymouth following the murders of two women, Lorraine Cox and Bobbi-Anne McLeod. A partnership called Vision Zero has invested £5 million into road safety.

Ms Herndendez is the lead police and crime commissioner for road safetu.

Thirteen police station enquiry offices have re-opened under her watch, allowing the public face-to-face contact with police. Five more openings are planned this year.

With domestic violence on the increase and accounting for much of the violent crime in the region, Ms Hernandez says it is one of her priorities for the next four-year term, if she is re-elected.

“I have decided we cannot just keep doing more of the same – that is helping victims to escape and supporting them to report. We need to do more.

“If I can do what I did with Vision Zero by getting all the partners on board, I think I can do something similar to tackle domestic violence. I don’t have a solution yet but I am up for the challenge and it will happen within the next term if people vote me in.

“There will also be a huge push to tackle serious and organised rural crime, the stealing of animals and property.”

Ms Hernandez said she would be match-funding £1 million of ASB hotspot money from the government to help with the cost of street marshal schemes, which it is claimed are successful in places like Barnstaple.

And she said she knows people want police officers to be more visible.

“I think they are more visible than they were, but people want more. They don’t want officers distracted or extracted but that is the case with officers on patrol who are making arrests. It’s hard to achieve stability in this organisation which is very dynamic.

“I have some fantastic officers doing great work on the ASB front. Inspector Ben Shardlow in South Devon has managed to reduce ASB by working with councillors, he got the college involved, spoke to businesses and patrolled certain hotstops,

“When you grip it and lead it it works but you need councillors stepping up. I have a councillor-advocate scheme where they get better access to policing and we really support them to be community leaders.”

Ms Hernandez said she had delivered on her promises made in 2016 to make police stations open to the public after they were shut during the austerity years and to recruit  more police officers.

“I have got a track record of doing what I say, and that is important,” she said.

“I don’t think most people realise what this job does. I spend 50 per cent of my time scrutinising the police and 50 per cent trying to tackle crime, reduce crime and a lot of it has nothing to do with the police.

“Prisoners Building Homes, we started it here. It’s gone regionally and will go nationally in the next term. That is the sort of radical ideas we are coming up with to solve society problems.

“If you want someone like that, vote for me.”

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