Protecting the most vulnerable from harm
Supporting victims and targeting offenders of domestic abuse
There were nearly 20,000 domestic abuse-related crimes in Avon and Somerset in 2020 with most victims being women and children. Over recent years the Police and Crime Commissioner has invested in services to support victims of domestic abuse as well as programmes to work with offenders.
If you elect me, I will work with the police and other partners to continue to support victims and increase the targeting of offenders. I will also pledge to both reduce the numbers of these crimes being committed while at the same time increasing the reporting of these crimes by victims.
Protecting children from exploitation including child sexual exploitation
The criminal exploitation of children and young people through for example County Lines or child sexual exploitation is an abhorrent crime. I have worked throughout my time as part of the Police and Crime Commissioner team to introduce an Avon and Somerset-wide specialist support service for victims of Child Sexual Exploitation.
We have also worked with the police to introduce a multi-agency approach to identifying and safeguarding vulnerable children called Operation Topaz, which I will continue to champion.
A zero-tolerance approach to hate crimes
Avon and Somerset is a diverse and, for the most part, tolerant and inclusive area. However, there were over 3,500 recorded hate crimes in the area in 2020, and racial hate crime increased by 20%. Being attached in your own community because of, for example, your race or sexual orientation, is an awful crime.
Avon and Somerset Police has worked in partnership with organisations such as Stand Against Racism and Inequality to transform its approach to identifying and supporting victims of hate crime and I will continue to champion this crucial work to make sure all hate crimes are handled proactively and fairly in the future and all communities feel equally safe.
Improving support for victims of rape and serious sexual offences
In Avon and Somerset, like other areas across the country, the number of rape and serious sexual offences reported has increased while the number of convictions for these crimes has been falling. The Criminal Justice System is not serving victims of these traumatic crimes well.
The Avon and Somerset Deputy Chief Constable is the national lead for these offences and is piloting a new approach with the Crown Prosecution Service in our area to better support victims. I will support her in this work and provide additional investment to ensure that all victims of these crimes are supported. This investment would go to, among other areas, funding Independent Sexual Violence Advisers to support victims through their court cases.
Improve support for people in mental health crisis
Mental health was a factor in 30% of all incidents attended by the police in Avon and Somerset in 2020. The police have become the service of first resort in many cases, but this is often inappropriate for the vulnerable people involved.
There are now mental health practitioners in the police control room to advise officers, but I will continue to work with NHS Mental Health Commissioners to ensure that vulnerable people get the right support from the right professionals at the right time, before their mental health becomes a crisis.