Police have seized 700 cannabis plants, 1kg of pure cocaine and solved at least 30 additional burglaries in the first six weeks of a massive crime crackdown.
Operation Remedy was launched by the Avon & Somerset force on April 1 following a 12.4 per cent hike in its council tax precept, with the £15million boost being spent on recruiting 100 extra officers, its first increase in frontline manpower for a decade following years of cuts.
The crackdown is targeted specifically at knife crime, drug dealing and residential break-ins after residents identified them as their biggest concerns to Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens.
In a Facebook Live chat with the PCC on Wednesday, May 15, Avon & Somerset Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: “That increase in precept was a big moment for me and Avon & Somerset Constabulary.
“It’s the first year in the seven years I have been a chief here now where I have seen resources increase to the point where I can actually create some extra capacity.”
He said about 60 of the 100 additional officers being assigned to Operation Remedy were now working on the clampdown.
“They have been out and about and busy across the whole of Avon & Somerset. They have put in almost 1,000 hours of visible patrol,” Mr Marsh said.
“They have recovered an awful lot of drugs — about 700 cannabis bushes, a kilo of really pure cocaine — they have recovered many, many knives, they have been actively visible in some of our most difficult hotspots.
“They have been following up on burglaries. They have solved at least an additional 30 burglaries already, putting the fear away from the victims of burglary back to the people who know we are going to be squeezing their shoulders if they carry on burgling.
“So, they have made a flying start.”
Meanwhile, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that Avon & Somerset Police will receive £1.7million of a £100million pot for forces around the country to tackle serious violence.
Mr Marsh said: “There was a concern that (the funding) was likely to go to the seven worst forces for knife crime.
“Bristol and Avon & Somerset are pretty busy police force areas.
“We are not in the worst seven, which is something we should be very proud of, but that should not have excluded us from any money, so I’m pleased to say our representation has led to us receiving £1.7million.
“We are still deciding how to spend it but we will be spending it on a surge capacity.
“That does not mean extra police officers but it does mean we have some money to spend on overtime and we will try to do that without depriving our officers of their much-needed rest periods and holidays.
“But we will be seeing more police officers in what we would regard as risk hotspots for knife crime.
“We will also be doing some work in prevention and with other partners.
“More visible patrolling, more proactive policing will cause the quickest impact on knife crime but it won’t make the problem go away.
“We need to run that in parallel with other agencies in health, education, social care to make sure all the preventative and protective measures are put in place at the same time, otherwise this is something that will just return in cycles.”
Ms Mountstevens said: “We lobbied really hard to get this money for Avon & Somerset but it does reflect the Home Office taking this very seriously.”
The money is part of the final £12.4million to be allocated from the Home Office’s £100million Serious Violence Fund, initially announced in March.
It has been shared among the 18 forces dealing with the highest levels of violent crime, including Avon & Somerset.
Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter