I thought it would be helpful to give you a reflection on key activities that I have been working on since the pandemic started on 23rd March 2020.
The day it started I went straight into the office to see what we needed to do to support the Chief Constable and the force in these unprecedented times. The Chief Constable and I had daily briefings, liaised with Members of Parliament for clarification on guidance given to us all and the entire response to the pandemic was co-ordinated by the police force working with our partners in local authorities, health services and other emergency services. This was done through the Local Resilience Forum.
As you can imagine many of our local community were frightened, particularly those with chronic illnesses and the elderly. Our force were upfront and on the streets helping people understand the guidance. Both the Chief Constable and I did national media to help get the message across to those considering visiting our areas too. We were relentless.
The proactive efforts of the force resulted in them being in the top 3 areas to issue the most fixed penalty notices. It was 986 in total after the first couple of months and as a result it was vital that I carried out some fast time scrutiny to check that the powers were being used legitimately and proportionately. There was a reassuring result from the Independent scrutineers that help me carry out scrutiny of the force that this was the case. You can see the full results by clicking here.
So far we have managed to have the lowest rate of the virus here in the South West and this is largely in part to our incredible community doing what is required to make this the case. I can't thank people enough for being tolerant and well-behaved most of the time. There is always a minority that will spoil things for the law abiding majority and it's why I introduced the Covid summer safety marshals to support our Officers and staff and help prevent alcohol related anti-social behaviour escalating particularly in our beauty spots. This has now become a government mandate and we are awaiting details of about the announcement of £30m to local authorities for this very purpose.
One of the biggest issues that has also taxed us during this time has been the levels of domestic abuse that has not relented during the pandemic. As a result my office commissioned increased victim support via a 24/7 online web chat facility and telephone line for those needing support and we worked with Operation Encompass to create a Teacher's Helpline. These helplines were vital for enabling access to services and to help ensure we could minimise the suffering of children. The Teacher's Helpline has now been funded by government throughout the country meaning that every teacher now has access to specialists on a phone line where they are worried about a child in their school.
When masks in shops were introduced I knew there were exemptions to wearing one and didn't want people to start pointing the finger and causing conflict with others in their community through fear. So I created a poster for shops to display to help advise customers and always suggest that every one of us is best to keep our distance, wash our hands and wear a mask where required if possible. I am also a member of the South West Business Council Task Force to help and assist businesses wherever I can.
I have been publicly scrutinised by the Police and Crime Panel so far during this pandemic and you can read my two reports with the full story of what my team and I have been doing. You can even watch that scrutiny too if you are inclined to see how I am questioned and challenged by elected members across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
We're not through this yet but I'll keep going and am by your side to keep us as safe as possible from this deadly virus.