Gwent Initiative to Tackle Rural Crime Scoops Top Award

The Gwent Police Farm Watch initiative won the Wales Rural Crime Award and a cheque of £500 at the NFU Mutual 2014 Country Crime Fighters Awards held in London yesterday (October 9th). In addition to winning the Wales specific award, Gwent Police were also runners up in the UK-wide awards, winning a trophy and another cheque for £500.

The NFU Mutual Crime Fighters Awards help to recognise and celebrate unsung rural heroes and reward crime-fighting initiatives. Gwent Police will now spend the money they were awarded on providing further support towards the reduction of rural crime.

Gwent PCC Ian Johnston funds and supports the Online Watch Link (OWL) system which sends out targeted messages via email, phone or SMS alerts about crimes and problems to members who have signed up in communities throughout Gwent. The system, which now boasts over 40,000 registered members, is heavily supported by Neighbourhood Watch and contains thousands of watches, including Farm Watch.

The appointment of a dedicated Gwent Police Farm Watch Coordinator has also helped increase Farm Watch membership by 400% in the last year to over 800 members. And by using Farm Watch to connect with farmers and by increasing face to face engagement with them, rural related crime in Gwent has been significantly reduced by 27%. As a result, Gwent Police is now among the few Forces in the UK to see a decrease in rural related crime.

Intelligence gained from the public via Farm Watch has helped the Force to catch a series of criminals involved in farm and rural related crime ranging from firearms crimes, crimes against animals to the theft of farm machinery, fuel and metal. The use of tracker vehicles has also helped them to recover stolen items such as quad bikes. The initiative, which recently appeared on the BBC Crimewatch programme, enables Local Policing Unit Commanders to have a joined up approach regarding suspects across Gwent.

The Farm Watch scheme was selected by the judges for its contribution to the reduction of crime on farms in Gwent.

Delighted with the award and highlighting the great work of the team, Sergeant Simon Clark of Gwent Police, said: "We have been working hard as a team to enhance customer satisfaction and their awareness about crimes that impact rural communities. This award is a testament to the hard work of the team. I am a firm believer that you have to have a dedicated team in place to personally visit and communicate with farmers and people who live in rural areas. Our engagement and rapport with farmers meant that we were heavily involved in the recent NATO conference as the venue was surrounded by farms and landowners.

They provided accommodation and intelligence which was vital to the operation. We have been approached by forces throughout the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, who hope to replicate our success."

Applauding the team on their success, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston, said: "I would like to congratulate everyone involved with the initiative and I am delighted that their hard work and dedication has been recognised with this award. The passion of these officers working to enhance relationships with the farming community can't be denied and I would like to thank all those people making this work because it's making a big difference. People in rural communities are a special group as they are often isolated and hard to reach. Our Farm Watch initiative helps break down those barriers and provides us with another weapon in our arsenal to tackle rural crime."

For further information about OWL and how you can sign up as a member or become a co-ordinator, visit www.owl.co.uk/gwent