The CLA’s report into rural crime as recently as 2019 revealed that one-third of England and Wales police forces didn’t have a rural crime strategy, 4 of 10 police forces had no rural team, and less than a third of new recruits received any form of rural training. Incidences soared in livestock-attack, crop-damage, theft, arson or vandalism of machinery, plant and equipment, unauthorised encampment, fly-tipping, poaching and wildlife crime. The special nature of the subject: the need for specific knowledge, equipment and a special approach meant that capacity was confined to some select places. After all, from the perspective of wide-society’s priorities, resources follow highest demand and most likely impact. The CLA report quoted a typical landowner, “We are acutely aware that police lack equipment, manpower, and in some cases, the enthusiasm to tackle rural crime.”
Among the report’s concluding recommendations were that a “rural crime tsar” should be created, to coordinate a united rural crime strategy facilitating relevant forces working together – and the same role should include being seen in the community to be making a difference.
“It’s a pilot role,” says Rob. “I’ve just 9 months of my year-long project to prove its value.” He is the right man for the job: a former police manager, in North Wales he set-up the UK’s first rural crime team, and played a role in the creation of a unit in Yorkshire. Rob’s expertise includes the multiplicity of laws – many ancient – concerning land, rivers, livestock, game, hunting and wildlife. But no rural-crime boffin he: Rob has 35 years’ policing experience, rising to the rank of Sergeant and Inspector. He has been a hostage negotiator and he served on the first police helicopter unit. On retirement from active policing, Rob received the Queen’s Police Medal for his work. Since 2016, he’s advised and started to coordinate forces’ rural capacity, and backed by a huge social media following, he’s shone a light into the work of the rural crime units, even drawing on his following to gather intelligence and involve the community.
Rob explains, “My remit is to create a united rural crime strategy, a common approach and coordinate the 4 Welsh police forces on rural issues. I’m also working with relevant English forces and I think there’s scope to extend the project further – it’s early days.”
We need some updating of the law in some areas, such as livestock and wildlife protection, the abduction of dogs - and we need the backing of new powers in others, such as irresponsible dog-ownership. Equally, if we’re going to really tackle fly-tipping we need to address not only law and law-enforcement, but waste management too. And as far as boots-on-the-ground are concerned, I’m designing training courses to create more-and-better officers in the countryside
“I’m going to make a difference on the ground too,” Rob continues. “We need some updating of the law in some areas, such as livestock and wildlife protection, the abduction of dogs - and we need the backing of new powers in others, such as irresponsible dog-ownership. Equally, if we’re going to really tackle fly-tipping we need to address not only law and law-enforcement, but waste management too. And as far as boots-on-the-ground are concerned, I’m designing training courses to create more-and-better officers in the countryside.”
“An area where we’re already seeing a big difference is the relationship between farmers and law-enforcement. I’m looking at new technology to deter and detect crime on heritage sites, to fuel, vehicles, equipment, and crops, and even on infrastructure – and how farms can network. Key to this is the much-improved culture of trust between farmers and police. In that sense my role is as much about building and sustaining relationships in the rural community – as it is in working with the police forces.”