The year is almost at a close, and I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on the progress made over the past 12 months as we work to make Dorset the safest county.

From new partnerships to significant funding successes, it’s been a year of progress, but I want to reassure you I am firmly focused on 2024 and continuing to deliver for the people of Dorset.

Here are my highlights from 2023.

1.       Cut Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour

From new CCTV to community outreach work, my aim to robustly tackle anti-social behaviour has been well-served by Dorset Police’s continued implementation of Operation Relentless. Along with the community fund administered by my office which funds projects and initiatives to reduce ASB and increase community safety, we have seen success in reducing incidences across the county. Indeed, the 100 Days of Summer policing operation tackling ASB in Weymouth led to a 40% reduction in ASB and criminal activity incidents compared to previous years, thanks to robust policing and regular interaction with the community and visitors.

Along with the Op Relentless community fund, which has supported 31 organisations across Dorset with more than £117,000 of funding, I am also proud of the work undertaken with the Fix The Future initiative, which aims to create more prevention and diversion schemes across Dorset by supporting projects and initiatives to benefit young people and their communities. This year we launched round two with some fantastic applications proving successful.

2.       Make Policing More Visible and Connected

It has been great to see Community Contact Points being used across Dorset, alongside our mobile police station front desk and office. The aim of the community contact points is to increase accessibility and visibility in local communities, offering a facility to report crime and incidents as well as offering prevention and engagement opportunities for the public.

Another encouraging result has been the Force’s successful response to a challenge I issued them earlier this year to make improvements to the time it was taking to respond to the most serious emergency calls. I am delighted to see waiting times reduce by 10% overall and look forward to seeing this progress continue as we deliver a better service to the people of Dorset.

3.       Fight Violent Crime and High Harm

There will be no let-up in our fight against knife crime. While we have the second lowest rate of knife crime across England and Wales, that does not mean we are complacent. This year we intensified our efforts which included the launch of the Bournemouth Town Team with Dorset Police and our partners, my office funded knife wands for every patrol car as well as a portable knife arch and the Force-led Operation Fireglow and Operation Nightjar targeted ASB and serious crime. I know there is much more still to do, which is why my campaign for a Violence Reduction Unit in Dorset will continue apace in 2024.

I was also pleased to welcome the law which made possession of NOS – Nitrous Oxide – illegal. I have been campaigning for this to happen for some time and to see this law in action has been a significant milestone in my fight to protect the most vulnerable. In Dorset, Operation Scorpion and Operation Viper will continue their excellent work disrupting drug supply lines in 2024.

4.       Fight Rural Crime

Dorset is blessed with strong, proud rural communities, and I was pleased to see NFU Mutual’s annual report showing a 28% drop in the cost of crime for Dorset, compared to an increase of 22.1% nationally. In October we launched our Rural Mounted Volunteers scheme which sees volunteers on horseback work with the Dorset Police Rural Crime Team, providing intelligence and information to support and protect our rural communities. This is just one more weapon in the armoury when it comes to taking the fight to the criminals who plague our countryside.

I also confirmed funding for an evidence gathering role to enable further enforcement of fly-tipping offenders in Dorset. I know from a Rural Crime Survey we conducted this year, that fly-tipping is the rural crime which concerns you the most and I am happy to have listened and acted to provide this important role.

5.       Put Victims and Communities First

Alongside the brilliant services my office commission including Victim Support and Restorative Justice Dorset, we have seen two new initiatives launch this year to ensure victims and communities are at the front and centre of the criminal justice process. One of these is the VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) Improvement Panel, which reviews Dorset Police’s VAWG agenda, ensuring the Force is delivering the most effective and compassionate service for victims of VAWG-related crimes. We also announced the Immediate Justice pilot scheme, which will help to tackle anti-social behaviour. This pilot is designed so swift and visible punishments are delivered to those who have committed ASB and other low-level crimes.

6.       Make Every Penny Count

I continue to lobby government for a better, fairer deal for Dorset. As you may have seen, I have launched our annual precept survey this week, asking you to have your say on the policing part of the council tax precept. It is no secret it’s been a tough financial year, and it is not easy for me to come to you, the people of Dorset, and ask for your continued support. But we do need your help and your contribution to keep Dorset one of the safest places in the country to live and work. Please fill in our survey; I place great emphasis on ensuring your views help shape the future of policing in our county.

I want to assure you that I will be relentless in my fight to ensure Dorset is the safest county. So much good work has taken place this year, but I am not complacent. I know more needs to be done. Through continued lobbying for a fairer funding deal, fighting violent crime and high harm and putting victims and communities first, there will be no let-up.

I wish you all a safe and happy festive season. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

David Sidwick
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner