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Welcome to our latest series of guest blogs as part of our Everyone’s Exeter campaign, that will focus on one of the 12 Goals each month over the next year. We will be hearing from business leaders on the impact that the featured goal will have on their business and what their organisations are already doing to tackle the goal.

We are joined this month, for the Reliable Journeys and Resilient Roads goal, by Chief Superintendent Jim Nye from Devon & Cornwall Police.

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My name is Jim Nye and I’m Chief Superintendent for Devon and Cornwall Police, but also the environmental lead. A few years ago, as commander of a joint operations department with Dorset Police, I became interested in reducing the time roads are kept closed for police collision investigation but without diminishing the quality of the investigation. I was looking for a new innovative approach.

As a resident of Exeter and a police officer I want the best for the city and the wider population of Devon and Cornwall, so I am engaged with Exeter City Futures’ Resilient Roads & Reliable Journeys goal. I want safe, reliable roads and efficient roads! My goal is to help Exeter achieve its goal of becoming a sustainable city.

 

Exeter’s Gridlocked Roads

I have lived in Exeter since the mid-1990’s and have seen Exeter change, mostly for the better, over the years. However, one apparent struggle is its continuing expansion which is causing a significant strain on its infrastructure and it’s become clear to me that we cannot continue with our current thinking and the usual ways of getting around the city, responding to collisions needed to be reconsidered.

The strain on our road networks is an issue that affects me at work as we have finite resources within Devon and Cornwall Police (DCP), which have been dramatically reduced during a decade of austerity. In response I was looking for new ways of delivering our police services; one of which was our approach to collision investigation.

To put this into context, in Devon and Cornwall there are roughly 800 people killed or seriously injured on the roads every year. One outcome is a high number of road closures for an investigation to take place. These road closures often cause the road networks in and around Exeter, as well as across Devon and Cornwall to become gridlocked. Within Exeter, should a fatal collision occur, it is not uncommon to close the affected roads for 8 or more hours, with the obvious knock on effect to the public.

We are duty bound to thoroughly investigate the cause of any collision which causes serious injury and/or death. This is a detailed and time consuming process, carried out by very experienced roads policing staff. We all know from experience that even the smallest delay can cause the roads in and around Exeter to grind to a standstill, and we want to change this.

As Exeter’s economy is also primarily based around tourism and business, this level of disruption to its road networks is detrimental to the local economy. We know on average the closure of a motorways can cause a staggering loss of £1m every hour to the economy. So, for DCP, if we could reduce the time it takes to gather evidence at these collision scenes roads it would enable the road to be freed up more quickly, keep the city flowing, boost the economy, free up DCP staff to be redeployed to other police matters, and reduce the amount of pollution that cars sitting in traffic pump into our environment.

 

Scoping the Road Collision Innovation Challenge

You may be wondering how I got involved with Exeter City Futures. A couple of years ago whilst at a networking event, I met their Partner Network Manager, Jemma Hodgkins, where we started talking about policing and the vision of Exeter City Futures. The positive and ambitious work that they were doing seemed like it might be able to help me and DCP solve this key challenge.

So, we worked together with Exeter City Futures to scope an approach to finding ways to reduce the time it takes to gather evidence at a collision scene but without losing the quality of the evidence. We wanted to explore how technology could speed up the evidence gathering process and this is what gave birth to the Road Collision Innovation Challenge. This is a collaborative project working with Exeter City Futures and their startup accelerator programme Exeter Velocities to discover an innovative piece of technology or a new service that could help solve this huge challenge for DCP.

Teams selected to be part of this competition will complete a three-month support programme delivered by Exeter Velocities in collaboration with Exeter City Futures, Devon and Cornwall Police and Dorset Police. The programme will offer regular engagements, workshops and in-field testing with road traffic investigation units in Devon to develop, test and refine potential solutions to address our challenge.

Any technical solution that allows us to do our job more efficiently and effectively, and in a more timely fashion is good for the police because we can reallocate that freed up resource. For me it’s all about quicker evidence gathering, redeployment and efficiency of police resourcing and broadening our capacity as a police force, and ultimately arriving at a solution that could save Devon and Cornwall and Dorset police – and therefore the public purse – potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds.

There are 43 police forces across England and Wales, all facing the same challenge – austerity has significantly reduced the number of police officers that are able to work effectively in the roads policing environment. I don’t believe any other police force in the country have used this innovative approach to key challenges (it’s not how we do procurement traditionally) and if we make a success of this we can demonstrate to the rest of the UK that there is a smarter, slicker and more beneficial way of working as a police force.

I am really excited to see a suite of innovative teams and solutions that could tackle this problem, and I am looking forward to working with the teams. There is lots of expertise within the police force, but this type of thinking is exciting, innovative and new and that is why we want to work with Exeter City Futures and Exeter Velocities to open up a whole new market.

 

Is it possible? Yes, I am an optimist by trade and I believe that the technology/solution is out there but we have never successfully tailored it for this field of policing… so watch this space!

 

Find out more about our Everyone’s Exeter campaign and how you can get involved: exetercityfutures.com/everyonesexeter