PCC alert: update (27 March)

The PCC’s five tips for getting though the coronavirus crisis

The word crisis is not one I use often, or lightly, but the necessary and rapid response to the coronavirus means that life has changed, temporarily, for everyone as we grapple with this.
Our ‘new normal’ means that many households and businesses are facing a crisis. But Government assistance, a co-ordinated public services response and community togetherness (even if it isn’t physical togetherness) will make us all safer and help us get through the next few weeks and months.

With that in mind I thought I’d use this alert to offer some practical advice to residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

1. Listen to the medical experts

Firstly, I think it is vitally important that we all make an effort to adhere more closely to medical advice. On Friday the Local Resilience Forum, a group made up of councils, local authorities and emergency services, declared a major incident. This in itself is not something to worry about, it just means that they are all working together and ramping up their efforts to mitigate against the effects of the pandemic.

The lead agency in this situation is Public Health England. It has issued very clear guidance on what you should do if you exhibit symptoms of Covid-19 infection. It is worth checking the website gov.uk/coronavirus regularly for the latest advice, then sticking to it. The strategy has been to avoid a spike in cases that would exceed our hospitals’ capacity, and we can all play our part in helping to achieve this. There are far too many people ignoring the advice, posing a threat to not only themselves but also to society’s more vulnerable members. For 80% of those infected symptoms will be mild, but in a very few cases they can be severe, even the young and fit.

2. Please stop panic buying

I was heartened to see supermarket delivery drivers on the Government’s list of key workers last week, meaning they can use our schools for childcare. The list perhaps reset some people’s view of who is important in society, and I’d like to praise those making the efforts to ensure that vital supplies will continue to make it to our shops. Please bear in mind that the stores will only have supplies for us all if we buy sensibly and only for what we need.
Temporary shortages are only happening because some people are ignoring this advice. This impacts on those who cannot afford to bulk buy and those who can only shop for what they can carry. Next time you are tempted to stock up on Andrex please spare them a thought.

3. If you need police help, ask for it

Devon and Cornwall Police has made extraordinary efforts in the past week to reshape itself so it can maintain its frontline service. Officers have been pulled off projects to go back on the frontline, 40 student officers were trained in three days to answer 999 calls to give the contact centre some resilience, and command structures have been set up to enable the force to respond quickly to a rapidly changing situation. The result is that the police are still there to investigate crimes and attend incidents and in many ways the force is operating entirely normally. Overall crime levels are actually down for this month in comparison to the last two Marchs, and anyone who thinks this situation is a licence to commit crime will be sorely disappointed. Of course, in an emergency call 999, in a non-emergency always ‘click before you call’ by filling out the form at devon-cornwall.police.uk or using the live webchat service on the force website devon-cornwall.police.uk, if you need to call 101 do so. Information on crime can be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or at crimestoppers-uk.org.

4. If you have been a victim of crime – see what help is on offer

One of my roles is to commission services for victims of crime, this is delivered in the force area via the Victim Care Unit, a team of experts who can tap into a vast array of organisations which deliver a range of specialist services. They can offer practical and emotional support to victims of crime, dramatically reducing its impact on society. The unit certainly isn’t closed for business. I have seconded staff from my office to ensure it can still help victims through this difficult time and last week launched a 24-hour Victim Support webchat service to add resilience through these challenging times. Visit victimcaredevonandcornwall.org.uk or call 01392 475900 for help.

5. Get involved

The recent Government measures doesn’t mean you can’t make contact with someone in your community who might need help. I’ve been inspired by many of the efforts on social media to keep morale up and communities together. If you are worried about a neighbour who needs to self-isolate it is perfectly OK to help pick up groceries or a prescription for them as long hygiene precautions are taken. A regular email or call will help to reduce loneliness and remind them that we are all in this together.

Alison Hernandez
Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

Help and support for victims of crime

Live Chat is a web-based support service that will be available to victims in Devon and Cornwall 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is anonymous, confidential and free to use. To access it please visit victimsupport.org.uk or visit the Victim Care website – victimcaredevonandcornwall.org.uk. Victim Support will still offer telephone support on 0808 1689 111

In addition to the web chat facility, other channels for victim support are still available. The Victim Care Unit can be contacted on 01392 475900 from 8am to 8pm on Monday to Friday and 9am to 5pm at the weekend. Information on the practical and emotional support on offer is available at victimcaredevonandcornwall.org.uk

New domestic campaign launched as cases expected to increase

Partner agencies across Devon and Cornwall are launching a campaign to raise awareness around domestic abuse and have warned that it may increase in the coming weeks due to the impact of Covid-19. However, they want to reassure communities that victims will still have access to vital support services despite the current uncertainty.

The campaign will highlight the fact that whatever type of abuse takes place, be it physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial, the abuser is trying to control the victim and uses abuse and/or violence to achieve that control. It will also tell victims how to access help and support.

More on our website: devonandcornwall-pcc.gov.uk

Beware of COVID-19 scams

Unscrupulous criminals are exploiting fears about COVID-19 to prey on members of the public, particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends. National Trading Standards is warning people to remain vigilant following a rise in coronavirus-related scams that seek to benefit from the public’s concern and uncertainty over COVID-19.

Members of the public should ignore scam products such as supplements and anti-virus kits that falsely claim to cure or prevent COVID-19. In some cases individuals may be pressurised on their own doorsteps to buy anti-virus kits or persuaded into purchasing products that are advertised on their social media feeds. In addition, some call centres that previously targeted UK consumers with dubious health products are now offering supplements that supposedly prevent COVID-19.

Communities are also being urged to look out for signs of neighbours being targeted by doorstep criminals. While there are genuine groups of volunteers providing help during self-isolation, there have been reports of criminals preying on residents – often older people or people living with long-term health conditions – by cold-calling at their homes and offering to go to the shops for them. The criminals often claim to represent charities to help them appear legitimate before taking the victim’s money. There are genuine charities providing support, so consumers should be vigilant and ask for ID from anyone claiming to represent a charity.

COVID-19 scams identified can, but not limited to, include:

Doorstep crime

• Criminals targeting older people on their doorstep and offering to do their shopping. Thieves take the money and do not return.
• Doorstep cleansing services that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.

Online scams

• Email scams that trick people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk. Some of these emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by coronavirus.
• Fake online resources – such as false Coronavirus Maps – that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing program which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data. A prominent example that has deployed malware is ‘corona-virus-map[dot]com’.

Refund scams

• Companies offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.

Counterfeit goods

• Fake sanitisers, face masks and Covid19 swabbing kits sold online and door-to-door. These products can often be dangerous and unsafe. There are reports of some potentially harmful hand sanitiser containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.

Telephone scams

• As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.

Donation scams

• There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’.

Loan sharks

Illegal money lenders are expected to prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence

More on the National Trading Standards website: nationaltradingstandards.uk

Reporting crime to Devon and Cornwall Police

In a non-emergency, you can also report a crime 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 101 webchat or on the online crime reporting form – both on the force website – devon-cornwall.police.uk. There’s also a useful AskNed system that provides online advice on a range of issues and by signing up to Neighbourhood Alert regular updates and information. At this difficult time, please remain vigilant and report anything you think might be suspicious.

In an emergency situation, always dial 999

Crime can also be reported anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via its website – crimestoppers-uk.org

If you would like to know more information about the powers given to the police to support and respond to the coronavirus, please visit the Government website: gov.uk

Covid-19 update

The situation continues to change rapidly so for up to date advice on the Covid-19 virus please visit the Force website – devon-cornwall.police.uk and gov.uk