A bid for additional funding to help a police force deal with the impact of an exceptional number of visitors will be handed in to the Home Office today.
The Devon and Cornwall force is the largest in England and receives more tourists than any other force outside London, yet has one of the lowest police officer densities in the country.
Visitor numbers have boomed in recent years due to the popularity of Westcountry resorts and a low pound.
While tourists bring prosperity to the two counties and islands that make up the force area, there is no direct revenue from this to fund police, who feel the strain of the ‘summer surge’ Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez argues in a 60-page bid for Special Grant funding.
Devon and Cornwall officers and staff struggle to cope with an 11% rise in crime in the months between April and September, a 14% rise in incidents and an 18% increase in missing people.
The Home Office Special Grant fund comprises of £73m which is ‘top-sliced’ from police forces and then used to deal with exceptional or unusual circumstances. Last year it was used to help Wiltshire Police cope with the Salisbury novichok nerve agent poisoning.
The bid details £17.9m of expenditure over three years that is linked to the ‘summer surge’ and requests compensation for this.
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Alison Hernandez, is today heading to Westminster with a delegation of councillors, MPs and police representatives from across the force area to hand the bid in.
“We have invested heavily in services like the rural crime team and innovated by collaborating with other emergency services to create new roles to help the force cope with unprecedented levels of calls for service over the past three years,” she said.
“The increase in activity is no longer confined to the school summer holidays, we’ve shown that it begins in April and lasts right through to September, but the impact on our people and the communities they serve is year-round because training and leave have to be taken in the remaining six months.
“The force has to deal with this additional challenge of a peninsula that is isolated from others, with just 10% of it is within six miles of another force area, and it’s predominantly rural, so our resources and spread thinly.
“Devon and Cornwall are stunning places to visit but we’re not free from crime. In recent months two huge cocaine hauls were detected off our coast, the force has disrupted county lines drug dealing schemes and a serious and organised people smuggling operation.
“Our communities deserve consistently good service from the force this bid is all about us being able to keep them, and our visitors, safe.”
Among those travelling to the capital with the commissioner is Inspector Andy Berry, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police Federation. He said the impact on summer leave created a challenge for officers.
“Time spent with one’s family is precious and officers find it particularly tough when they are refused leave during the summer period,” he said.
“This not only serves to erode their morale but also increases their stress levels due the persistent high levels of work pressure over the summer period.”
Truro & Falmouth MP, Sarah Newton, said “I am pleased to have met with our PCC Alison Hernandez and the Police Minister, Kit Malthouse, today to make the case for additional funding for Devon & Cornwall Police to support our officers to do their essential work. There is no doubt that our police are stretched during the months when we welcome the many visitors who love to visit our region and this additional funding with help.”
Notes to editors
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s application for summer funding contains the following key observations about policing Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
- Largest force area in England (2nd only to Dyfed Powys)
- 4,000 sq. miles
- 730 miles of coastline
- Five inhabited islands
- 13,600 miles of road
- 85% of roads are rural
- Mainland policing area that is 149 miles long – half the distance from Land’s End to London
- 1.76 million resident population
- 59% of residents living in rural areas
- 6% of areas fall in the most deprived areas in England.
- Incomes in Torbay and Torridge are some of the lowest in the country – with both local authorities in the ten lowest.
- 24% of residents are 65+ years old (compared to national of 18%)
- Outlier nationally on mental health hospital admissions (<18yrs and self-harm)
Policing our area
- One million calls for service per year
- 61 crimes per 1,000 population per year
- 149 incidents per 1,000 population per year
- 3,050 police officers in 2019/20
- 49p per day per person funding compared to E&W average is 57p
- 19 of our 27 policing sectors are classified as rural
- Isolated location: only 10% of force area lies within six miles of other forces
- Long journey times: 40 mile journey from Launceston to the nearest custody centre in Newquay will take 50 minutes on a clear road
The summer surge
- Second highest level of tourism behind London – 45 million nights
- 7% increase on our base population – the highest in England & Wales – equates to 125,000 extra people each day if spread across whole year
- Impact of that additional 125,000 people reduces our funding to just 46p per person per day compared to national average of 57p
- Summer lasts from April-September – in that period we see
- 11% increase in crimes in summer months: largest in England & Wales
- 14% increase in incidents, with significantly higher rates in some areas
- 18% increase in high risk missing people
- Response time pressures due to volumes and road network limitations, with only 66% of immediate incidents attended within 20 minutes in July 2019 compared to 73% in January 2019