June 2023: News from Avon & Somerset Police Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford

IN May I attended the first ever Avon and Somerset Police Outstanding Policing Awards, a remarkable opportunity to honour the outstanding achievements of the men and women who dedicate their lives to keeping our communities safe.

May also marked the start of Operation Sceptre, a national targeted initiative to reduce knife-related violence, increase public safety and engage communities in the fight against knife crime.

Proactively tackling knife crime is central to my police and crime plan, and I would encourage people to safely discard any weapons or knives they may carry in the ‘weapons surrender bins’ installed by Avon and Somerset Police. 

The bins are in areas where we know they are needed, and offer people a safe and anonymous way of getting rid of a weapon. If you know someone who carries a weapon, please encourage them to surrender it. You can find your nearest bin in the crime prevention advice section of the police website. 

Avon and Somerset Police and partners already carry out a large range of activities to raise awareness of and combat knife crime, and the Violence Reduction Units’ work is at the heart of this, delivering talks to young people in schools, running Blunt Truth workshops in partnership with the NHS and hosting pop-up information stands.

While we have seen a reduction in street-based knife crime across Avon and Somerset, more still needs to be done to ensure people feel safe in their communities. Let’s raise awareness, educate, and stand against knife crime.

As the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ national fraud lead, I also welcome the publication of the government’s long-awaited strategy, setting out how it plans to tackle fraud and bring more offenders to justice. 

This strategy, and the accompanying Economic Crime Plan, is an important step forward. I fully support the Government’s three-pillar approach to stop, block, pursue, and to educate the public. 

I have been able to have a direct impact on two important areas within the strategy, which will ensure there is national central coordination of prevention and awareness messaging, and ensure banks are delaying and doing extra due diligence checks on large BACS payments out of accounts that could be fraudulent.  

However, the strategy does not recognise some fundamental challenges, including the highly complex landscape of investigating fraud, which needs to be fully supported.  

I am calling for more to be done to recognise this crime’s significant impact and harm on victims. Fraud can leave lasting mental and physical trauma, with some victims taking their own lives.

Finally, I am pleased to say that the Commissioner’s Crime Prevention Fund grant has opened for applications.

This grant, set up by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in partnership with Somerset Community Foundation and Quartet Community Foundation, aims to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour through community projects and activities. 

Community groups previously awarded this grant have delivered some fantastic crime-reducing initiatives and activities. 

I implore local organisations to apply for this worthwhile funding, to reduce anti-social behaviour and make our communities safe.