27 Apr FACT CHECK: Rural Crime
Rural Crime or crimes in our rural communities are NOT … I repeat NOT out of control!
This election has been marred for me, with people being very economical with the truth or I would go as far as saying telling out right lies.
But I will continue to tell the truth and keep my promises to you.
We are lucky to live in a lovely county, but that doesn’t mean crime doesn’t happen. It does, and when it does happen it can be devastating.
But I will not increase the fear of crime by taking statistics out of context to fit a certain narrative.
A month or so ago I had my office prepare a presentation for councillors and members of the Police & Crime Panel to give them the full facts, no spin, but the full context. Those figures can be seen by clicking here.
Fear of crime
Dince being PCC I have worked with organisations and communities in our rural areas to make them as safe as they can be and I pledge to continue doing that.
Through early intervention and prevention and working with organisations and our local councils together will we keep our communities safe.
One organisation I have worked with closely is the National Farmer’s Union.
I believe we’ve worked well together and look forward to that relationship continuing.
The NFU recently sent me a series of questions so that they could let their members know where I stand on certain issues.
Below is the questions and my response.
NFU Questions :
1)Tell us your ambitions for rural policing in Gloucestershire
Since being PCC in 2012 I have listened to the concerns of rural Gloucestershire and as the voice of the public in policing have pushed for accessible and visible policing across all of the county. That is a real challenge in a large rural county like ours.
I believe the closure of many small rural police stations and police houses well before I became commissioner has left a lasting legacy and the feeling of lack of presence especially in some rural communities. Whilst I would love to put them all back, the resources aren’t there and I will be truthful and honest with you and not just offer things to get votes. But I do have some new ideas going forward.
I hope my actions over the last 8 years have shown that I have pushed for greater investment in supporting our rural communities and rural policing. From the establishment of our rural crime unit, specialist equipment for dealing with rural crime, to it being embedded in my policing plan under the Green & Pleasant county priority.
On being re-elected in 2016, and with austerity easing from 2018 onwards, we’ve been able to put back resources into community policing and the essential preventative work – so I am proud that under my leadership
- We now have rural and environmental crime officers
- We have pushed working with communities and landowners through the use of the Whatsapp group
- I am a founding member of the National Rural Crime Network and
- Your force in Gloucestershire is now being recognised regionally, nationally and internationally for best practice.
So I believe we have a lot to celebrate but always more to do.
2) What are the main challenges and opportunities for rural policing in Gloucestershire, and how will you work to support farming businesses?
Fear of crime and reassurance is a huge part of the challenge.
Whilst our rural communities do have a much lower crime rate than other areas of the country and county, that doesn’t mean if you are a victim of crime in a rural area you feel it any less.
Tackling fear of crime is something I am working on with, for example, Cotswold District Council through their community safety partnership.
Relationships are so important and I remain committed to ensuring our Rural & Environmental crime officers, along with our neighbourhood policing teams, are embedded in our rural communities and are visible and accessible to you. One of the biggest challenges is to continue to be consistently proactive.
The force has carried-out some really good operations and campaigns and there has been some good cross border activity too. The challenge is doing it more regularly and consistently but it presents an opportunity too.
We have seen some great proactive investment in crime prevention – such as the miles of bunds we’ve done together to protect farmland – and, wherever possible, I want to support our landowners, farmers and rural residents do all they can to protect themselves and therefore make them less likely to fall victim to crime.
We also have the Commissioner’s Fund which has heavily supported some communities but can and should be utilised better for the benefit of our rural areas too.
3)What will your first 100 days look like?
The last year has been hard on everyone. People are tired. But my energy and that of my office is concentrated on working with the police to try new things, to innovate but also to realise when things are working well.
So my first 100 days will be to continue being a strong voice for all our communities in policing, encouraging innovation, relationships and continue working together to keep Gloucestershire safe.
Since being PCC my door has always been open to regular meetings with the NFU & CLA as well as others from our rural communities and that partnership approach of working together will continue.
After a decade of austerity and despite the recent surge in recruitment, we’ve still not been able to recruit enough volunteers and Specials to replace those lost.
I’m afraid the suggestion made by others that Gloucestershire could recruit 300 officers at a stroke is both unrealistic and unworkable.
However, we now have a plan in place to get recruitment back on track and one of my commitments is around training for “rural specials” who understand some of the specific needs of rural communities and rural areas and this training is already underway.
Over the last decade crime has gone up everywhere without exception, though Gloucestershire has seen the second lowest crime rise of anywhere other than Thames Valley. We are 5th lowest for crime nationally, but we want to be better and through an embedded plan and a commitment from me and the Chief Constable to continue working with you, I believe we can succeed in keeping our county one of the safest places to live, work and play.
4) How will you ensure crimes in rural areas are consistently reported?
I’ve made a commitment to invest £1 million a year on public contact, as part of my Every Crime Matters priority which is embedded in my police and crime plan.
That priority is my challenge to the force, on your behalf, and I will hold them to account to see it is fulfilled.
You might have seen the recent Click, Call and Connect campaign, I expect this to be an on-going campaign and conversation with the public around engagement and accessibility of the police.