Rural communities increasingly feeling the impact of crime
Early results from the National Crime Survey, published on Monday, show crime continues to be a significant area of concern for rural communities. The survey which was completed by 20,000 people across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, identified a significant reduction in the public perception of the police by rural communities that they were increasingly living with the fear of crime and the number of offences going unreported is a third higher than during the 2015 Survey.
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said:“Rural crime is a big problem and one, that as this survey shows, is getting increasingly important for those living in rural communities. Over three quarters of Essex is classified as rural and rural crime accounts for nearly a third of all crime reported in our county.
“In Essex we know we have a real challenge to make sure our rural communities feel safe and are able to thrive. However, it is really positive that the majority of the recommendations in today’s report are already in place in Essex, including a strong dedicated team and good relationships with our rural communities.”
In November last year Essex Police launched their new Rural Crime Strategy which was developed in close partnership with rural communities and relevant partner agencies, including a public consultation. This identified many of the same issues which have been reinforced through the national survey published on Monday and led to the development of a range of activities to tackle these priority areas.
Problems such as fly-tipping which have been highlighted as national issues are also issues in Essex and are being combated through effective partnership working. Speeding is also a key area of concern in rural areas and is being reflected in an increased focus on rural speeding from the Safer Essex Roads Partnership and increased activity by Speed Watch volunteers and Officers.
Mr Hirst added “We have worked hard with our rural communities to understand their issues and increase the resources available to tackle rural crime. Only 15 other forces (out of 53) in the UK have dedicated Rural Crime Teams and in November 2017 Essex Police formed the Gypsy, Traveller and Rural Engagement Team which is one of the largest dedicated rural teams in the country.
“This team has worked closely with local communities and the Rural Crime Forum to develop and start implementing the Essex Police Rural Crime Strategy which picks up on the majority of the recommendations highlighted in this report and which was developed in close partnership with key stakeholders.
“While we have much to do to tackle crime within our rural communities we have made a strong start and this work is starting to make a difference in how we reduce the risk of crime, identify and clamp down on organised crime and work with partners to reduce fly-tipping and speeding.”
As well as already implementing the majority of the recommendations made in the report, Essex Police also have a number of specific initiatives in place to strengthen our approach to rural crime, including:
- Working closely with local authorities, at least one has made rural crime a Community Safety Partnership Priority with others considering doing so
- Working with Safer Essex Roads Partnership to tackle speeding
- Providing specialist rural policing support seven days a week through the new Gypsy, Traveller and Rural Engagement Team
- Robustly tackling unauthorised traveller encampments – 100 encampments visited this year
- Utilising drones to tackle rural crime
- Working with the Essex Rural Partnership, local authorities and the Environment Agency to tackle industrial scale fly-tipping, including undertaking Nights of Action to deter and detect offenders
- Implemented Operation Galileo in Essex to tackle hare coursing with a number of successes
- Hired a dedicated Rural Essex Watch Liaison Officer and Designing Out Crime Team to provide information on crime trends and advice to rural communities on how to prevent criminality
Chief Inspector, Ian Gennery, who leads the rural team said: “Essex is a big rural county but only a quarter of the county’s population live there. We are putting more police officers in to communities to make a safe county even safer but this is a big challenge for policing and one our rural crime strategy looks to address. We now have specialist teams tackling rural crime and building awareness of enforcement action but also crime prevention. Crime in rural areas affects both businesses and people, meaning rural areas suffer domestic violence, drug offences and cybercrime as well as what we might think of as ‘traditional’ rural crime like fly-tipping and hare coursing.
“I need people living in rural areas who are concerned about crime to do three things. Firstly, if you experience a crime, I need you to report it to us online, by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency. We cannot stop or prevent what we don’t know is happening. Second, talk to us. We hold regular engagement events online and in person. In the next six months we’ll be in Thaxted, Stansted Mountfitchet, West Horndon, Langham, Salcott and other rural places across the county. Find out more by clicking on your district page on www.essex.police.uk
“And third, help us. We have a mix of specialist teams, local officers and Special constables keeping rural Essex safe, but the help we get from groups like Farm Watch, Neighbourhood Watch, Parish Safety Volunteers and dog walkers and horse riders is incalculable.”
The Essex specific results from the Rural Crime Survey are due to be released within the next two weeks and will published at www.essex.pfcc.police.uk. These will provide a detailed picture of what matters to rural communities in our county.