Taking action on rural crime

We know that rural crime is a problem. But we also know that it is massively underreported. I met with the Rural Crime Team ahead of the national rural crime day of action to talk about what is being done in Dorset to protect our rural communities from crime.

The national day of action is led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council who are encouraging police forces across the country to give tackling rural crime an extra push on Thursday 8 November.

Our Rural Crime Team is dedicated to tackling rural crime and work tirelessly all year round to help protect our rural communities and bring offenders of rural crime to justice. It is a small but effective team. Recent successes include a successful prosecution for poaching resulting in a five year criminal behaviour order; a number of arrests made in relation to tractor thefts in the county; and multi-agency operations to tackle fly-tipping and illegal waste carriage.

On the rural crime day of action, they are meeting with enforcement partners, as they do regularly, to discuss current enforcement plans and the most prolific offenders in the area. In the night leading into the day of action they conducted a targeted police operation on known hotspots. But there is lots of work going on elsewhere within the force as well. PCSOs, for example, will be visiting victims in our rural communities to check on them and ensure they have the support they need.

Prevention is a key part of what the Rural Crime Team do. They regularly promote prevention messages and share simple steps that you can take to help protect you and your property. The day of action is no exception and they will be handing out preventative signage for people to use on their properties.

One of my frustrations as Police and Crime Commissioner is when people raise concerns about rural crime with me, and rightly so, but have not reported it to the police through the proper channels. People are getting better at reporting it. In fact the percentage of Dorset residents not reporting it was lower than the national average according to the results of the National Rural Crime Survey. But we know that what is reported is only part of the picture.

When I met with the Rural Crime Team they had just been speaking to someone who is a part of our rural community. During the course of the conversation he revealed he had recently seen suspicious lights in one of his fields that he hadn’t reported. It is vital that people report anything suspicious, be it lights in a field, an unfamiliar vehicle crossing private land or broken padlocks. It all adds to the intelligence picture. The police don’t know about it if you don’t tell them.

The team were able to give him specific advice around what he had seen in addition to encouraging him to formally report it through 101. It goes to show that it is personally worthwhile speaking to police about any suspicious activity you witness. You may not necessarily be aware of what is going on in the area or how incidents might be connected and the police can advise you accordingly. But you can’t rely on chance meetings like this one. You also need to take action on rural crime and report it.

The Chief Constable and I are committed to improving the rural crime response, but we need your help to better understand the nature and scale of the problem. The more reports the police receive on rural crime, the more accurate the picture our recorded crime figures are. It gives us a better understanding of the demand that police are facing and therefore enables us to better allocate the resources that are needed to fight it.

If you take action on rural crime by reporting it, you are helping the police take action to tackle it.

Martyn Underhill

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