VICTIMS OF rural crime are being asked to explain how they suffered both emotionally and financially after being targeted by criminals in the countryside as part of a new bid to help police better serve remote communities.
According to the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN), its new survey, launched today, is the largest ever carried out to examine crime and anti-social behaviour across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The study is supported by the Home Office and aims to compile a body of information to improve national awareness of crime in rural areas. It is also designed to provide a clearer picture of attitudes towards crime to inform government and local policy during a time when police budgets have been reduced as a result of public spending austerity cuts.
The NRCN was established last July as a collaborative think-tank with the help of £40,000 funding from the Home Office. It is supported by 29 Police and Crime Commissioners and police forces across England and Wales.
Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner and chairman of the NRCN, said: “The full scale of crime in rural areas has never before been assessed. Whilst official figures show rural crime, like crime in general, is decreasing, we are concerned about the wider implications on people and communities.
“The fear of crime can be as detrimental to people’s well-being as crimes themselves, so we are keen to find out more through this survey.”
Richard Pearson, regional director of the National Farmers’ Union, said: “It’s not just the financial impact that we all know about, as most farmers live on their farms it is the emotional effect on their lives being invaded.
“It’s that psychological impact of not knowing what they are going to wake up to. It’s this side of rural crime and its impacts that goes unreported.”
Mrs Mulligan said that while crime rates tend to be higher in urban areas, tackling rural crime has its own challenges, such as the police’s ability to respond quickly and the volume of crimes which may go unreported.
Police forces now rely on the co-operation of residents to help tackle rural crime through voluntary patrol schemes and live information sharing.
Following the conviction for poaching near Northallerton of two men from Darlington in February, North Yorkshire Police said farmers and countryside communities were playing a vital role in the war on rural crime.
The men were prosecuted after local residents, as part of a police ‘Borderwatch’ patrol observed their crimes and passed on the details of the vehicle they were using to police.
Public volunteers in Selby take a hands-on approach too, having been given access to a rural crime car of their own so that they can help patrol isolated spots.
Mr Pearson said such schemes worked best where the rural population can watch all ways in and out of an area.
“The difficulty comes in the urban fringe areas where there are more avenues onto farmers’ land. The edge areas of our urban conurbations are a great challenge. We have to work with police and local people to make everyone aware of what’s happening there.”
To complete the rural crime survey, visit www.nationalruralcrimenetwork.net/survey