The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is asking Police and Crime Commissioner candidates to help in the fight against rural crime in the South East.
Ahead of the PCC elections on May 6, CLA South East – which represents thousands of farmers, landowners and rural businesses in the area – is writing to each candidate urging them to support our five key asks.
We are asking them to commit to a rural manifesto focusing on the following five priorities: wildlife crime, support for the National Rural Crime Network, a focus on tackling crime against businesses, greater joined-up enforcement work, and an effort to promote education and the Countryside Code.
CLA South East has this week written to all candidates in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, and Thames Valley.
Regional Director Michael Valenzia said: “Police and Crime Commissioners have the wherewithal to make a difference and can help protect rural communities through targeted funding, resourcing and training.
“For many CLA members, rural crime is a blight as criminals are often emboldened by the isolation of rural communities, leaving families, farmers and business owners feeling vulnerable and powerless.
“While much good work is already being done, police teams can be inadequately resourced to investigate and prevent criminal activity in the countryside.”
In a survey last year, 38% of the 8,000 people who took part had fallen victim to rural crime in the preceding 12 months.
The CLA estimates that the average financial impact per incident is nearly £5,000, not to mention the psychological effects which can be felt for a long time after the crime has taken place.
Mr Valenzia added: “Next month’s elections are an important opportunity to ensure that the next Police and Crime Commissioners not only understand the cost and impact of rural crime, but are committed to taking a stand and reducing it.”
More about the 5 key asks
- Wildlife Crime: 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: rural crime is unique and often takes place over sparse geography. The National Rural Crime Network, provides vital research and reports on the challenges of rural crime. We would ask all PCC candidates to continue to fund the NRCN and adopt the best practice it advocates.
- Tackle 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 such beyond theft, such as criminal damage and arson. We want to see police forces with a properly equipped and resourced dedicated rural crime team to tackle this constant threat within our rural communities.
- Effective responsibility: Fly-Tipping is a blight on rural life, with many victims being 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.
- Promote Education and 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 promotion of the Countryside Code, following a worrying rise in incidents of fire, criminal damage, wild camping, trespass and livestock worrying. The CLA is running a campaign for the Countryside Code to be taught more widely across schools and has produced useful infographics for promotion on social media.
What is wildlife crime?
Wildlife crime is any action which contravenes current legislation governing the protection of the UK’s wild animals and plants and includes:
- Hare coursing
- Deer poaching
- Fish poaching
- Badger persecution
- Raptor persecution.
A few key figures:
- £4,800 - The average financial impact of rural crime per incident
- £1,000+ - The cost to a rural business of clearing up fly-tipping per incident
- Half of rural business owners say that crime has a moderate or great impact on their lives.
- 60% of rural business owners are fairly or very worried about becoming a victim of crime.