Posted: Friday 24th May 2019
Last week saw a national crackdown on so-called county lines gangs where nearly 600 people suspected of involvement in drug dealing were arrested across the country. In Avon and Somerset police officers visited 157 properties that were thought to have either previously been cuckooed or were believed to be at risk of being cuckooed in the future. Until relatively recently I’d never heard the term ‘cuckooing’ before. It’s when drug dealers use violence, exploitation and intimidation to take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for drug dealing. Last week, police officers spoke to 173 adults considered vulnerable and potentially at risk of being exploited by dealers. I went out on one of these visits and met three vulnerable people. These people were in danger and now had a relationship with the police. Officers knew them by name and it’s these interactions and visits that were keeping them safe and make them less attractive to dealers. It was incredibly sad and easy to see why these people feel trapped. It’s vital that we all recognise the signs of drug activity and exploitation of vulnerable people. If you have any information about people you believe are involved in drugs, either as victims or perpetrators you should tell the police or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.We must continue to disrupt county lines and stop those who want to exploit the most vulnerable for their own benefit. It’s an absolute necessity in order to keep all our communities safe.
This week we released an update for residents on how Operation Remedy is performing. Operation Remedy is the police response to tackling the issues that matter most to local people such as burglary, drugs and knife crime. This one-year operation is thanks to local households paying an increased amount in the policing part of their council tax. So far, after six-weeks, the police are off to a good start; they have arrested 56 people and 71% have been charged to date including offenders wanted for burglary, possession of knives and drugs. They have executed 16 warrants and located stolen items including a bike valued at over £3,000. Nearly 700 cannabis bushes and 1kg of extremely pure cocaine have also been seized. There have also been 1,000 extra hours of visibility patrols. I will continue to work with the Chief Constable to show local people the difference that is being made with the policing part of their council tax. There’s still lots of work to be done but we are off to a strong start and we’re sending a loud and clear message to criminals.
Arresting criminals is one side of the issue, rehabilitating them so that they don’t go on to reoffend is perhaps the most difficult part. After a series of damming reports about the partial privatisation of the probation services I was pleased that the Ministry of Justice decided that the supervision of thousands of offenders will return to the National Probation Service. I responded to the Government’s consultation on this matter and held honest face to face discussions with Ministers regarding my worries over the effectiveness of the private community rehabilitation companies managing offenders on shorter sentences. If offenders are not supported effectively on their release from prison, then reoffending rates will remain high. More crime means more victims of crime which is unacceptable. I’m committed to working with the Ministry of Justice on this new model and to delivering local solutions which fit the needs of Avon and Somerset, working with the third sector and local employers. I’ve already set up the South west regional reducing reoffending board so we can respond to this change and be in a position to start work straight away. It makes absolute sense that we must try to rehabilitate offenders and reduce offending to ultimately make a difference to cutting crime in our communities and ensuring there are fewer victims in the future.