SAJID Javid tried to strike a less confrontational tone when he addressed the Police Federation this week. “I’m listening,” the newly-appointed Home Secretary told delegates.
Yet, given the context was the recent spike in violent crime and whether this was allied to cuts to day-to-day policing, The Yorkshire Post hopes Mr Javid is also in listening mode when it comes to rural crime as this newspaper begins a special week-long series.
The Government can’t keep abdicating responsibility by saying it is a matter for the forces – and crime commissioners – concerned. As he knows, or should do by now, the main funding parameters are set by the Government and, is so often the case, they penalise rural areas like North Yorkshire.
Despite successive Home Secretaries – Theresa May included – being sympathetic to the case for updating the national funding formula to ensure that it takes due regard of the specific issues, and challenges, facing countryside communities, nothing has happened.
The consequence is rural residents cut adrift from the police – and this vacuum being exploited by drugs gangs and criminal networks who are extending their operations from major towns and cities to rural locations because they believe there’s little chance of them being apprehended.
It places the safety of residents, landowners and farmers at increased risk as a result – and the level of criminality might have been under-estimated because so many lesser offences go unreported because victims know the police simply don’t have sufficient resources.
Though policing is changing because of the advent of online crime, and the specific challenges that these offences pose, the police still need a physical presence in communities.
And, at the same time, legislators, like Mr Javid, need to realise that criminals will never respect artificial force boundaries, hence why a ‘fresh start’ for the police under his tenureship of the Home Office needs to begin with an appreciation, and understanding, that rural areas are part of the new frontline in the war against crime – and need resourcing as such.
Over to you, Home Secretary.