Rural Communities urged to share information to help tackle crime
Posted 5th July 2023
Rural communities in Essex are being urged to come together to share information and tackle crime unique to them.
With three-quarters of Essex classed as rural, crime specific to these areas – ranging from hare coursing, agricultural vehicle theft and burglary to public order and violence – take special consideration from the authorities.
Crimes committed in rural Essex account for 14% of all crime reported in the county.
Delegates at the Essex PFCC Partnership conference, at Colchester Jobserve Community Stadium on Friday 23rd June, heard more about the work taking place to prevent rural crime.
Insp Terry Jacobs, of Essex Police, highlighted that while theft, criminal damage and burglary are among the most prevalent crimes in rural areas of Essex, the top reported offences relate to violence and public order.
A total of 18.7% of crime reported in rural areas relates to domestic abuse, with residents living more remotely and away from support networks.
He said: “When you look at our rural communities, on the whole crime levels are low. So, when you look at the figures, domestic abuse is a big part of what is happening there.
“While the top reported offence in rural parts of Essex is violence without injury – making up 32% of all reported crime – the biggest concern of farmers and residents in these areas is hare coursing, which is reported far less and actually makes up 0.8% of crime there.
“Rural crime is therefore about two things – it’s about the crime that is harming people, but also about the impact of the fear of crime. So, when the volume of a crime is low, it is the fear of crime that should be tackled.
“Do we focus our response on the volume, ie the biggest problems, or what people are worried or concerned about and their fears?”
The conference, hosted by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, saw crime-fighting projects shared with agencies from across the county who have the common goal of making Essex a safer place for all.
They heard about the Reaching Our Rural Communities project in Uttlesford which saw the council, parish council, police, PFCC, Crimestoppers, NFU and farmers come together to look at the needs and concerns of the rural community.
Having analysed the data, it was decided to communicate with as many residents as possible, knocking on doors and setting up a coffee shop in a horsebox where more information could be gathered on what was really happening in the area.
In 15 months, 600 premises were visited, 142 face-to-face conversations took place, machinery and tools at 46 properties were marked, 32 new members joined Farm Watch, and Essex County Fire & Rescue Service interacted with 99 people and installed smoke alarms.
Information was given out and letters sent giving advice on keeping cottages and outbuildings locked, remote houses signposted, and machinery secured to improve safety.
A Reconnecting Our Rural Communities meeting was held in Takeley, with 30 farmers and ten partner agencies coming together to hear crime prevention advice, to share footage of hare coursing incidents and to sign up to a Whatsapp group to open up regular communication channels.
Uttlesford farmer Dr Zoe Rutterford said: “Joining up to have regular meetings has made a positive impact on our local farming community. Getting to know contacts within the Community Safety Partnership and police teams has been at the heart of increasing trust and incident reporting.
“We now feel more connected, and hope the good relationships continue to build steadily.”
Insp Jacobs said: “It would be good to see this approach replicated in other rural areas of Essex.”
PFCC Roger Hirst said: “Protecting rural and isolated areas is one of our key priorities in Essex.
“Residents in our rural communities can suffer the same crimes as anyone else, but they often live far more remotely, away from support networks, and that can add a unique level of the fear of crimes taking place.
“By working together, by making acquaintances with others living in the same community, by opening up our channels of communication and by taking on board the expert advice from our partner agencies, we can ensure our rural communities are safer and our residents feel supported and cared for.”