Posted: 26.06.20 at 09:05 by By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Mumby
A Somerset police operation has been praised for cracking down on drug trafficking – despite a rise in the recorded numbers of both drug and knife crimes.
Operation Remedy was established by Avon and Somerset Constabulary in April 2019, with 100 additional police officers being recruited.
The operation was designed to improve both police performance and public confidence relating to burglary, drug and knife crime – and is now a permanent part of the force’s strategic operations.
While the number of residential burglaries has fallen, and public satisfaction with the police’s work is rising, the numbers of recorded drug and knife crimes has risen – the latter by more than ten per cent since last year.
A report evaluating the first 12 months of Operation Remedy was published ahead of a virtual police and crime panel held on Tuesday (June 23).
Police and crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens said the operation had made significant in-roads in combating ‘county lines’ – organised crime networks which traffic illegal drugs, usually heroin and crack cocaine, from big cities to smaller towns using dedicated mobile phone lines or other forms of “deal line”.
She said in her report: “Operation Remedy has provided support in tackling county lines, particularly across Somerset in Frome, Yeovil, Bridgwater and Weston-super-Mare.
“We have provided support to neighbourhood policing through vulnerability checks, execution of warrants and supporting operations such as Operation Yarrow.
“Vulnerability checks often relate to premises that have been cuckooed – where county lines offenders take over the address of a vulnerable person through coercion and/or exploitation.
“Over 80 per cent of Operation Remedy’s tasks in the south are to support county lines work, resulting in successfully terminating one of the lines in Frome.”
In the first 12 months of Operation Remedy, residential burglaries fell from 6,677 to 6,158 – a drop of just under eight per cent.
However, in the same period, recorded incidents of drug trafficking (including possession with intent to supply) rose from 637 to 673 – a rise of nearly six per cent.
Likewise, recorded incidents of knife crime rose from 2,626 to 2,968 – a huge rise of 13 per cent.
Ms Mountstevens said these increases were due to more crimes being reported or discovered, rather than an absolute rise in the number of crimes.
She said: “Burglary is an offence that is well-reported (i.e. if somebody is burgled in many cases, this will be reported to the police) – so being proactive in tackling burglary means preventing burglaries, stopping offenders and therefore reducing the number of burglaries.
“However, with drug and knife crime when the police are proactive, as with Operation Remedy, this will inevitably lead to an increase in recorded crime because proactivity will mean ‘discovering’ more of this type of offending.
“The positive outcome rates for residential burglary, knife crime and drug trafficking offences provide good evidence towards achieving this objective.”
Positive outcome rates relate to the public’s overall satisfaction in the police’s performance.
In 2018/19, Avon and Somerset ranked 38th national for positive outcomes – but this has climbed to 16th as a result of Operation Remedy’s work on residential burglaries.
The positive outcome rate for residential burglary cases in Avon and Somerset rose from 4.4 per cent in 2018/19 to 7.6 per cent in 2019/20.
In the same period, positive outcomes over drug crime rose from 75.1 per cent to 76.2 per cent, and outcome for knife crime rose from 25.7 per cent to 26.7 per cent.
Ms Mountstevens said: “Although the growth in positive outcome rates for the drug trafficking and knife crime are not as big, it is a step in the right direction.”