Rural Crime

Last week I travelled to Northamptonshire to address a national conference on rural crime.  It was the first time that such an event had been held, reflecting the sense in the countryside that these issues must not be overlooked.

As I said to the conference, all crime matters and all crime must be tackled, and this is as true in rural areas as it is in towns and cities.  Of course, in terms of volume there is far more crime in urban areas, but crime can have a real impact in rural areas, too.

Properties can be remote and so vulnerable, and as commodity prices have increased we've seen livestock and fuel thefts from farms, while metal theft is a serious concern in both town and country.  Not only has infrastructure been damaged when, for instance, power cables have been stolen from railways, we've even seen the shameless desecration of war memorials.

Rural crime is inevitably harder to deal with when police resources are spread over a large area.  I don't, however, accept that the current economic climate means that rural policing will inevitably suffer.  The police have to make savings, but frontline services can and should be protected.

And while rural policing faces the challenge of geography, it also has the asset of particularly strong communities to work with.  The police cannot fight crime alone, so effective local partnerships between the police and communities, such as Farmwatch and Horsewatch, are important.

This was a point echoed by the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire who leads for the Association of Chief Police Officers on rural crime.  Often the police play an important role in encouraging and supporting such community action.

I saw this for myself when last summer I met Tom Guiney, the PCSO for Cowfold, Dial Post, Partridge Green & West Grinstead, who has energetically initiated a neighbourhood-watch type scheme for rural businesses.

Volunteers also have a huge role to play.  Last year I met a farmers' wife whose role as a special constable helps to police remote farms and communities.

The conference heard many more great examples of the police and community working together to fight rural crime.  I'm glad that this conference raised the issue of rural crime, because in areas like ours, these issues matter. 

Christopher N Howarth