Thames Valley Police says tackling rural crime ‘is and will continue to be’ a priority for the force after damning criticism of policing from the National Rural Crime Network.
The Network recently claimed its survey of more than 17,000 people living and working in rural areas throughout England and Wales suggested the true cost of crime in rural areas could exceed £800m.
The report into the survey said the figure is 21 times higher than previous figures, dwarfing earlier estimates.
The survey also indicated that hard-pressed young families and farmers are the most frequent victims of crime, with the average cost of those crimes to a household being over £2,500 and for a business over £4,000.
The NRCN said: “Moreover, there appears to be a vicious circle of low expectations, leading to chronic under-reporting, anger, frustration and worry. The result is increasing fear of crime and significantly lower satisfaction levels in the police than the national average.”
But now Thames Valley Police’s Rural Crime Partnership has issued a response to the damning report, highlighting the work it has done in stopping and preventing rural crimes.
In a statement on the force’s official website, the police said: “With over two million people living and working within the Thames Valley and a significant proportion of these in rural areas, preventing, identifying and investigating incidents of rural crime is, and will continue to be, a policing priority.
“For this reason, in 2011 the Thames Valley Rural Crime Partnership was formed with representation from a number of key stakeholders including Thames Valley Police, the National Farmers Union, Country Land and Business Association and the National Gamekeepers Organisation. The role of the Partnership is to provide coordination and leadership in tackling rural crime issues across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.
“Rural crime can have a devastating impact on victims both financially and emotionally which is why the Partnership is working closely with our communities to find ways of tackling this and we have had some great successes.”
Some of those successes include bringing the first successful charges on ‘conspiracy to hare course’ which it says was made possible by working more closely with local landowners and the fact illegal raves have reduced from 39 reported in 2011 to just one so far in 2015.
The statement continued: “Working within the Partnership allowed this complex problem to be addressed.
“Local gamekeepers are regularly involved in joint operations with Thames Valley Police to help provide intelligence on poaching and hare coursing.”
The National Farmers Union and Datatag have run several training courses with Thames Valley Police officers on rural crime, an opportunity that came about through the Partnership.
The force said the report was right to identify communication and engagement with rural communities as of paramount importance and says it re-emphasises Thames Valley Police is doing the right things.
“We regularly talk about rural crime across our various social media accounts, host Have Your Say Meetings, run joint operations with gamekeepers, and send regular crime advice and information through our Country Watch and Thames Valley Alerts system,” the statement continued.
Tom Cackett of the National Farmers Union and member of the Partnership, said: “Thames Valley Police have made rural crime one of their priority areas and it really shows; confidence in the police has grown, and statistics show rural crime decreasing.
“I think a lot of this can be attributed to a greater commitment from Thames Valley Police, to engage with the rural community through initiatives like this and other events such as the Rural Crime Forums.”
Anthony Stansfeld, Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley and member of the Partnership, said he had made tackling rural crime a priority and is pleased to see it is now falling in the Thames Valley.
“The recommendations in the report have largely been implemented in the last few years and Thames Valley Police and our partners are leading the way in tackling rural crime,” Commissioner Stansfeld said.
Thames Valley Police were keen to point out that the NRCN report provides a picture of rural crime on a national level and wants to see the figures broken down for the region.