'Rural crime is not high enough up on people's agenda and tougher court sentences are needed'

Rural crime is not high enough up on people's agenda and tougher court sentences need to be given to offenders, a North Yorkshire Police officer has said.
Rural crime is not high enough up on people's agenda and tougher court sentences need to be given to offenders, a North Yorkshire Police officer has said.
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Rural crime is not high enough up on people's agenda and tougher court sentences need to be given to offenders, a North Yorkshire Police officer has said.

PC Arfan Rahouf works as part of North Yorkshire Police's Rural Task Force - which currently consists of seven police officers, seven PCSOs, a sergeant and an inspector.

The team focus on dedicated areas where rural crime is an issue.

PC Rahouf said: "The problem with rural crime is is not high enough up the agenda for people. If you take a quad bike from a farmer then that is their livelihood gone for a couple of days - if not a week - until that can get replaced. If a poacher chases hares cruelly trying to kill them with the dogs around the crops, that is that whole crop and yield gone and destroyed because they can't sell it.

"If their tractor disappears, again they are out of business for a couple of weeks. The impact of it is massive and I don't think there is enough coverage of rural crime in the media and that is where the problem is."

PC Rahouf also states the conviction rate and sentencing for rural crime in the courts is "absolutely poor".

He said: "No matter what we do or how hard we try, if you put them in front of the courts it is a slap on the wrist.

"There needs to be more awareness in the criminal justice system of the affects of rural crime on communities. It is all well and good saying police need to increase visibility. It's not just the police. We run rural watchers where we are in Whats App groups and the communities come out and patrol with us. They know the area and can pick out suspicious vehicles which we can stop.

"It's down to farmers to increase there security and criminal justice system too.

"When you have got burglars committing rural crime they need to be sentenced accordingly to send out a deterrent. I get it is a burglary, it is not a dwelling, Iget that - it's not their home, but it is their livelihood. Sentencing is very important. There needs to be more partnership working with the courts."

North Yorkshire is the largest rural police force in the UK, but since the introduction of the Rural Task Force three-and-a-half years ago, rural crime has fallen.

PC Rahouf said: "Within our first year there were over 100 arrests and convictions for 65 poachers. We scrapped vehicles left, right and centre.

"Rural crime in general has gone down since this was set up. It was easy pickings before, but now there is a team dedicated to the rural community.

"However, at the moment we have seen an increase in farm and agricultural theft, in particular quad bike thefts. We also have animal crime - so poaching, badger bating and protected animals that are getting targeted."

PC Rahouf also admits that tackling rural crime has its difficulties.

He said: "The Rural Task Force will look at intelligence pictures, cross border crime and which area is getting targeted.

"We have several operations running that target areas where crime is being committed.

"We also use covert tactics to catch individuals. We go around and do property marking, making sure machinery is marked so if it is stolen and recovered we can get it back to the legitimate owners.

"We have given rural communities a lot of confidence. I am the PC for the Hambleton district and although it is a big area, those farmers have a point of contact. They have my mobile number and also have a PCSO they can reach out to. They can message us and tell us what is happening. It speeds up the process and gives them confidence and they are not waiting two or three days for officers to attend."