New PCC says communities must 'play their part' in tackling crime
Towns and villages across the Westcountry are to be deputised in the battle against crime and anti-social behaviour, the new police and crime commissioner (PCC) has revealed.
Tony Hogg challenged communities to lead the fight with a promise to champion restorative justice and hand more power to locals – by tapping into the "energy" of charities and voluntary groups.
He has also vowed to increase the visibility of officers in the face of massive cuts, but insists he expects to be judged on his central pledge – to cut rising crime figures across Devon and Cornwall.
He said: "Communities are going to have to play their part more and start owning their towns and villages.
"I want them to say 'this is my town and we are simply not going to put up with anti-social behaviour or graffiti'."
Mr Hogg, a former naval commander, who was voted in as the Conservative candidate for the role of PCC last month, laid out his vision for the future after his first month in the job.
This includes sharing resources with neighbouring forces in a bid to scale back the proposed loss of 700 officers by 2015 as part of attempts to save £50 million.
He explained how he hoped to combine his strategic role at the head of the force with becoming "somebody that people will turn to" when they have exhausted all other options. And, having cut his teeth in the voluntary sector as head of the Cornish charity Bishops Forum, he said he was "absolutely wedded to the huge value that the voluntary sector generates".
"They are all there already – soup kitchens, street pastors, neighbourhood and farm watches – I am simply saying to the community that we can do this," he added.
"If we pump prime them a little bit they can deliver amazing things – this is not just Conservative Party 'big society', it is my own observation of where we can go."
The force suffered one of the worst surges in crime in the country as it slashed more than 100 police officers last year, the Crime Survey for England and Wales revealed in April.
In the 12 months to December, the overall number of crimes in the two counties rose by 3% to 89,613. Robbery rose 12% and domestic burglary was up 16%.
It also emerged in August, that more than 36,000 offences were not investigated after the force judged there was little chance of finding those responsible.
This rise, from 33.7% in 2010-11 to 40% in 2011-12, prompted accusations that the force was trying to reduce its workload because of falling numbers of police officers, which by August had reached 300 of the total 3,500.
Mr Hogg was assessing the office of 20 staff which he inherited from the defunct policy authority, he said yesterday.
He has yet to appoint a deputy, and said he may not need one, but has recruited a communications manager as well as one adviser, Jan Stanhope.
Lady Stanhope, a former independent member of the disbanded police authority, will assist him on an annual salary of about £20,000 for working two days a week, an arrangement he described as "value for money".
In a briefing, from his offices close to the M5 at Pynes Hill, in Exeter, Mr Hogg set a timetable for the next few months, including the appointment of a chief constable and a budget for next year approved by early February.
He also identified areas where he hopes to improve policing.
He said police officers' jobs in Devon and Cornwall could be protected if some services and resources are shared between other forces in the South West, a move he called "logical" and "common sense".
As well as promoting "transparency" he is planning to replace the 101 telephone number, claiming it was suffering long delays and not representing value.