Nick Sandford, Country Land and Business Association (CLA) Acting Regional Director
Ahead of the recent Police and Crime Commissioner elections I wrote to all candidates standing for election urging them to ensure they prioritised rural crime if they were successful in their campaign. I had a number of encouraging replies – all of which shared the CLA view that rural crime must be taken seriously and that they back a CLA manifesto to tackle the issue.
Criminal activity is a blight on the rural population. Criminals are often emboldened by the isolation of rural communities, leaving families, farmers and business owners feeling vulnerable and powerless. Most police forces are doing their best with the officers they have, but all too often they are inadequately resourced to investigate and prevent criminal activity in the countryside.
Police and Crime Commissioners have the power to make a difference, and our work will now focus on engaging further with those successfully elected. The CLA rural manifesto focuses on five priorities. The first is to tackle wildlife crime – such as hare coursing, deer poaching and raptor persecution. It is important that all police officers and police call handlers understand the issues of wildlife crime so they can act appropriately when called for assistance. The CLA would like to see wildlife crime training included as standard for all new recruits and the development of an ongoing programme of training for all call handlers.
National Rural Crime Network
Secondly, we want to see the continued funding for the National Rural Crime Network (NCRN). Rural crime is unique and often takes place over sparse geography and the NRCN provides vital research and reports on the challenges of rural crime. We urge all PCC’s to adopt the best practice it advocates.
Another area for police focus should be tackling crime against businesses. The theft of metal, fuel, machinery and livestock blights the lives of farmers and rural businesses and the cost to the rural economy is significant. The countryside is a working environment as well as an area of great beauty, and these businesses face threats beyond theft, such as criminal damage and arson.
Fly-Tipping is another area of concern and a blight on rural life. Many victims are repeatedly targeted, and left to deal with both the expense and waste. To best catch those perpetrating this crime, there either needs to be much closer working relationships between the local police forces, environment agency and local authorities, or a single body responsible for leading on this issue.
Finally, the CLA urges PCC’s to promote the Countryside Code. Access to the countryside is vitally important for all, especially with the impact of Covid-19. However there needs to be greater awareness of the Countryside Code, following worrying incidents of fire, criminal damage, wild camping, trespass and livestock worrying.
The CLA has always spoken up for rural communities affected by crime and lobbied to ensure their voices are heard. Our work is far from over.