True cost of rural crime hidden by under reporting

Rural policing volunteers are wanted in the Selby area of North Yorkshire.
Rural policing volunteers are wanted in the Selby area of North Yorkshire.
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Police and Crime Commissioners are urged to give higher priority to tackling rural crime which is reputedly costing countryside communities somewhere between £37m and £800m a year.

The call is contained in a manifesto put together by the National Farmers’ Union for crime tzars ahead of the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioners elections on May 5.

However, if farmers do want police to dedicate more funding to rural crime, then they must report it when it happens to them in order to expose the scale of the problem affecting rural communities, said South Yorkshire Police Superintendent Neil Thomas. Different surveys estimate hugely different values for countryside crime because it is believed that many rural crimes go unreported.

Supt Thomas wants farmers to spell out the damage a crime has on their businesses when they call police to report it.

“When a farmer rings in they need to make sure they are making us fully aware of the issues they are dealing with. The response will be to what they report. So, for example, if a quad bike is tearing around on their land, make it clear that thousands of pounds worth of crops are being destroyed.”

For each of six rural crime concerns documented in the NFU’s PCC manifesto, the union offers a solution.

It also urges commissioners to improve direct communications with police.

“Much of the under reporting of rural crime is due to basic difficulties with communicating with the police,” the NFU manifesto states.

“Inadequacies with the 101 system have contributed to the loss of confidence within rural communities, with many people giving up on the system entirely. This is compounded by poor phone and internet coverage which leads to the sense of isolation.

“Furthermore, police are not fully utilising the valuable knowledge of the rural community as fully as they could.”

To address these issues, the farming union is calling on police forces to make commitments to reduce waiting times on calls to the 101 crime number, offer alternative methods for reporting crimes, establish direct contacts within specialist rural task forces and for them to offer firm support for countryside ‘watch’ schemes.