Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the biggest survey ever carried out into rural crime in the UK say police are not doing a good job in tackling the issue.
The early findings of the National Rural Crime Network’s (NCRN) survey of more than 17,000 people show that people in rural areas are “starting to feel less safe in their communities”, according to North Yorkshire’s crime commissioner.
The Home Office-backed study aims to improve national awareness of rural crime at a time where public spending cuts have hampered the ability of local forces to cover more remote parts of their patch.
The full results of the poll are not expected to be published for another two weeks, but the headline figures were broadcast on the BBC’s Countryfile programme.
The main question asked in the survey was: “Taking everything into account, how good a job do you think police in your area are doing?”
Sixty-one per cent answered ‘fair’, ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, while only 39 per cent responded with ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.
Only 30 per cent responded with ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ when asked how well their local force was doing on preventing and reducing crime, while only 23 per cent said police were doing a good job solving crime in their area.
A total of 27 per cent said they hadn’t reported the crime the last time they were a victim, with 70 per cent of those saying it would be a waste of time because police wouldn’t be able to do anything.
Responding to the survey, Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s police commissioner and chair of the NCRN, said: “It demonstrates that rural communities have some concerns about the service they are getting from the police and are starting more widely to feel less safe in their communities.
“The police service needs to look at this, we all need to look at this and think how can we provide a better service that meets the needs of people living and working in rural areas.”
Simon Prince, Chief Constable for Dyfed Powys Police in Wales and the national policing lead for rural crime, said: “Clearly we would have preferred to see a better response but the fact is we wanted to conduct this survey with the National Rural Crime Network so we could exactly understand how people in the countryside feel about crime and policing.
“The challenge for us all is to make sure that we use our resources wisely to have the maximum impact on crime in the community.”
In total 17,227 responses were received from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with 12,369 from people living or owning businesses in rurally classified geographic wards.
Mrs Mulligan said “an enormous amount of rich data” had been collected and that recommendations would be issued “in due course”.
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.
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 often now rely on the co-operation of residents to help tackle rural crime through voluntary patrol schemes and live information sharing.