As we move further into my third year as Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, I’d like to continue to look back and update you on the progress that has been made towards fulfilling the Police and Crime Plan over the last year.

This week I’d like to tell you more about the work being done to Fight Violent Crime and High Harm in Dorset.

Addiction and Substance Misuse

When it comes to addiction and substance misuse – I have to mention two ongoing police operations, Operation Scorpion which sees all of the police forces across the South West region come together to track down and disrupt those involved in illegal drug supply lines and Operation Viper, Dorset’s own operation focused on ridding our county of illegal drugs.

Operation Viper has been hugely successful in the last year with drug dealers convicted, illegal substances and dangerous weapons seized, and supply chains disrupted. I am pleased to be able to say that 21 county lines that come into Dorset have been shut down thanks to the hard work of Dorset Police, partners like South West Regional Organised Crime Unit, British Transport Police and of course through the intelligence supplied to enforcement agencies by the public.

Working to support Operation Viper, in the last year, we have seen 3 more rounds of Operation Scorpion and indeed phase 5 of Scorpion is running right now. So far phase 5 has seen 10 warrants executed in Dorset which have resulted just under 6,000 cannabis plants recovered, one firearm seized and 14 arrests.
I am clear that the message to the dealers has to be that if you come to Dorset then Dorset Police will find you and take your drugs, take your cash and take your liberty. However, I am aware that there is still more work to be done. Enforcement is only part of the solution, to truly combat the issue of drugs, we also need effective treatment and rehabilitation, and impactful education.

That’s why, following the announcement from the government in December 2021 of their ‘Harm to Hope’ 10-year drug strategy, I began lobbying partner agencies to establish and chair the Dorset Combating Drugs Partnership (CDP) to support the local delivery of the government’s strategic ambitions to break drug supply chains, deliver a world-class treatment and recovery system and moreover to achieve a generational shift in the demand for drugs.

In September 2022, the partnership was established with membership including statutory and non-statutory partners responsible for tackling drug crime, commissioning or providing substance misuse services, general health care partners and people with lived experience of drug misuse. Through the partnership, we have secured £1.4 extra funding under the ‘harm to hope’ Strategy and the government have indicated that over the next two years, Dorset will receive over £2 million to ensure the continuation of the programme in our county.

Violence Against Women and Girls

In late 2022, it was announced that Dorset Police was one of 14 expansion forces to join Op Soteria Bluestone, a national collaboration between criminal justice practitioners and a coalition of the most qualified and talented academics in their fields. The overarching aim is to develop a new operating model for the investigation and prosecution of rape and serious sexual assault cases.
I am committed to creating an environment in which all residents and visitors to Dorset feel safe from violence, intimidation, and harassment. This can only be done by influencing and supporting change within communities, partners, and policing. Dorset Police being a part of Op Soteria is a vital part of this work, ensuring that Dorset is at the forefront of change.
This year Operation Focus was also introduced in Dorset. The operation sees those who cause the most harm to women and girls identified and, when arrested, subjected to enhanced investigation to maximise the opportunities to achieve charges being made against them.
This year has also seen the launch of a one-year pilot of the licensing Security and Vulnerability Initiative (lSaVI). This initiative provides an online self-assessment tool designed to help alcohol licence holders and operators provide a safe and secure environment for staff, customers, and local communities.

Domestic Abuse and Stalking

Domestic abuse and stalking are particularly destructive, and I’ve listened to some appalling accounts from victims about the impact these crimes have had on them. I believe that it is vital we ensure that victims who experience sexual abuse, stalking and domestic abuse have tailored support that suits their needs.

That’s why I am pleased to say that this year my office was successful in securing continuation funding of £270,000 for the previously funded domestic abuse perpetrator programmes. This included; training of frontline practitioners, expansion of the Up2U Creating Healthy Relationships programme, and the Drive Perpetrator Programme.

In addition, my office also secured an additional £261,000 to fund services that support victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. This included additional Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVas), Domestic abuse advisors, trauma counselling and behavioural pattern-changing courses.
This year I have worked with the force to review the services that are currently available to victims in Dorset. Following an independent report from Safelives, in which they raised concerns relating to the independence of the services and ‘scope creep’ between victim care and police tasks, myself and Chief Officers from Dorset Police have approved plans to move towards a Pan-Dorset Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVa) service.

Determined to achieve change

We have collectively achieved a lot this year – but I absolutely recognise the public’s high levels of concern about drugs and violent crime in our communities and of course, there is still more to do to tackle the problem.

This week I am set to review plans for the Serious Violence Duty that was brought in by the government with the intention to ensure relevant services work together to share information and collaborate on interventions to prevent and reduce serious crimes within their local communities.
I have spoken before about Dorset having a Violence Reduction Unit to bring together organisations across local communities to tackle the underlying causes that contribute to serious violent crime, and it remains my aspiration that partner agencies can agree to co-fund such a unit.

I am determined to make our county safer for everyone as we continue to drive to become the safest country, so I very much look forward to working with colleagues, partners and stakeholders to achieve that goal on behalf of our residents and communities.

David Sidwick
Police and Crime Commissioner