THE drive to provide communities in West Devon with more ways to contact the police will be highlighted by a formal opening event at Okehampton police station this week.

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Alison Hernandez, promised to open 18 police enquiry offices by 2025 and 13 of these are already up and running with others to follow.

To mark the progress made so far, the front office at Okehampton, which is already staffed, will be holding a formal ribbon-cutting event on Thursday, February 22 with local community leaders and politicians invited.

The station is located at Barton Road, Okehampton, and enquiry officers are available Monday to Saturday between 10am and 3pm. The PEO is not open on Sundays or Bank Holidays.

Police station front desks allow members of the public to have access to walk-in services where they can speak to trained staff who can help with crime reporting, crime prevention advice and help with accessing victim services.

The first PEO to be reopened was in Newquay in 2020 - Tiverton, Newton Abbot, Truro, Falmouth, Penzance and Bude PEOs followed in 2021 and 2022.

Since October 2023, Okehampton, Ilfracombe, Honiton, Kingsbridge, Devonport and Looe have also opened.

Acting Chief Constable Jim Colwell of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “The decision to open more police station front offices across Devon and Cornwall is to improve public access to the police and boost engagement with our communities, enabling us to do so more quickly and effectively respond to public concerns.

“Continuing to improve the visibility and accessibility of Devon and Cornwall Police is a priority for the Force.

“When not dealing with members of the public face-to-face, our Police Enquiry Officers will be able to assist colleagues in the control rooms by handling non-urgent digital contact from the public and provide the local community with another contact option.”

Chief Superintendent Jennifer Bristow, Policing Commander for North, East and West Devon said: “I am delighted to see the opening of a public enquiry office at Okehampton. It’s a great opportunity for local residents to be able to come to the police station and talk to someone face-to-face.

“Making sure we are contactable when the public need us is crucial to allow us to understand the issues raised by local residents and capture valuable community intelligence.”

A recent study revealed 16 to 24 year-olds were the most likely to think opening enquiry offices would significantly increase public confidence in the police and over a quarter of people aged over 65 agreed.

Earlier this month PCC Alison Hernandez announced plans to open further Police Enquiry Offices in Exeter city centre, Tavistock, Ivybridge and Liskeard. These are expected to open by 2025. Plans for a PEO in Exmouth are also being outlined but no opening date has been decided.

PCC Hernandez said: “Communities in the Okehampton area will now be able to access policing closer to home when needing to report a crime or ask for advice.

“This forms part of the most ambitious programme of Police Enquiry Office reopening in the country and my vision is for face-to face contact with the Force to be an option for everyone in our Force area. This will ensure that wherever you live in Devon and Cornwall – including rural, coastal and urban areas – you will be able to access a Police Enquiry Office.”

Only 10 PEOs were open before the project began - these were at Camborne, Bodmin, Barnstaple, Exeter, Newton Abbot, Torquay, Isles of Scilly, Charles Cross, Crownhill and St Austell.

A total of 28 police stations across Devon and Cornwall will have front offices when the project is complete.