Tackling rural crime
"The report picked up on how rural communities can feel more vulnerable as they’re further away from services, and it also picked up on how rural communities are resilient and well connected socially"
With over two million people living and working within the Thames Valley and a significant proportion of these in rural areas, preventing, identifying and investigating incidents of rural crime is a policing priority
Superintendent Richard James, from the Neighbourhood Policing and Partnerships department at Thames Valley Police, welcomed the recommendations of the survey:
“Even though the report shows a picture of rural crime on a national level, it acts as a good measure for how we are doing within our own region.
“While there will always be room for improvement, I was encouraged to see that Thames Valley Police already meets a number of the recommendations set out in the report.
“We realised some time ago that a higher number of Police officers working in an area doesn’t necessarily mean a better level of service for the public. What’s more important is how well we work together in partnership with other organisations and with rural communities to help address the more complex aspects of rural crime.
“In 2011 the Thames Valley Rural Crime Partnership was formed with representation from a number of key stakeholders including Thames Valley Police, the National Farmers Union, Country Land and Business Association and the National Gamekeepers Organisation. The role of the Partnership is to provide coordination and leadership in tackling rural crime issues across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.
“The Partnership is a key forum for the sharing of information and best practice, crime prevention advice and members’ concerns. It is also contributing to some key successes, notably the ongoing promotion of the CESAR scheme through ‘marking’ events which has led to the installation of 964 tagging systems in agricultural machinery across our three counties.”
In addition to having improved how closely the police work with partners, Thames Valley Police is also currently working to allow for more targeted rural policing at a local level; another recommendation from the survey.
A pilot scheme has recently started that sees a small team of Special Constables dedicated to working solely towards helping to prevent rural crime in the South Oxfordshire and Vale of the White Horse Local Policing Area.
The Special Constabulary is a team of volunteers that serve as an important link between the Force and the communities that it serves, and is therefore well placed to be the familiar face of the Force that rural communities often feedback to police that they want.
The Special Constables involved in the pilot scheme are receiving additional training that will enable them to focus on rural communities and the typical challenges and crimes that these communities face.
The Special Constables are also learning how to perform property tagging and encouraging people to sign up to Country Watch – a free messaging service that provides advice and localised information on rural crime to people who sign up to the service – and also to follow their local police team on Twitter.
Special Constable Wesley Peile was recently successful in his application to become a Rural Crime Special Constable.
“I joined the Rural Crime Team with an understanding of the issues that most commonly affect people who live in rural communities with regard to crime. I enjoy supporting and reassuring rural communities, whether that is in person or through Country Watch Alerts or on Twitter, and I also working with my regular colleagues in their roles within the rural crime team.”
Supt Jim O’Ryan, the Commander for South and Vale LPA which is running the pilot, said:
“I’m hoping the specials will become well known in their communities.”
The report picked up on how rural communities can feel more vulnerable as they’re further away from services, and it also picked up on how rural communities are resilient and well connected socially.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld, said “We think that working with partners and communities at a local level through pilots such as the one mentioned here, will help us to best serve our rural communities.
“As a force area with one of the largest rural communities, I made it a priority to improve our response to rural crime when I became Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012. Crime, and the fear of crime, can have a great social and economic impact on rural communities who can feel isolated and vulnerable.
“We have already seen the impact of this increased focus. The National Farmers Union (NFU) Mutual ¬ gures showed that the Thames Valley was one of the few force areas last year to have seen a decrease in rural crime. We had a decrease of 19% compared to a 5.2% increase in rural crime nationally.
“We did this by addressing a number of areas. Firstly, the Thames Valley Rural Crime Partnership made theft of agricultural machinery, organised crime groups, poaching and hare coursing, and education and awareness of rural crime its priorities. I was also one of the 18 PCCs that formed the National Rural Crime Network which was set up to tackle rural crime more effectively across England and Wales. Working collaboratively and sharing best practice across the country will help improve the way we address rural crime in the Thames Valley.”
Initiatives such as Country Watch were also introduced which has helped engagement with communities; an important part of reducing crime and building trust between them and the police.
Marking vehicles and machinery as part of the Construction Equipment Security and Registration (CESAR) Scheme has proven to reduce the risk of having equipment stolen. Registered property with CESAR can aid identi¬fication and recovery as well as be a deterrent to theft.
Importantly, the police now respond to every rural crime incident. There has also been intensive operational and crime prevention activity including high visibility policing in hotspot locations.
This and the strengthening of partnerships and relationships between police, local farmers and estate owners have improved the confi¬dence in the police amongst the rural community and has greatly improved the reporting of rural crime.
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