PCC Welcomes Funding to Tackle Rural Crime

The Home Office announced an investment of £39,200 this week to establish the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) which aims to act as a collaborative think tank, researching and implementing ways to reduce rural crime.

The money for the project was awarded from the Home Office's Police Innovation Fund - a £50 million fund for projects that encourage collaboration between emergency services and communities.

Gwent PCC Ian Johnston is one of 28 Commissioners throughout England and Wales who has signed up to participate in and back up the scheme which is led by North Yorkshire PCC Julia Mulligan. Mr Johnston and the other Commissioners have also pledged to commit £1,000 per year each for the first two years as part of their localised funding commitments to the project.

Based online, the NRCN will provide information and support for rural communities by encouraging direct interaction between businesses, organisations and the police. It will also enable the rapid sharing of best practice and information between these groups by hosting discussion groups and "webinars". These will give members a chance to contribute to and comment on ideas with their peers and other NRCN members.

Gwent Police is already making huge strides in tackling rural crime in Gwent and this new project will add considerable value to the fantastic results which have already been achieved by the Force. Commissioner Johnston also 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 is heavily supported by Neighbourhood Watch, contains thousands of watches, including Farm Watch.

The appointment of a dedicated and award-winning Gwent Police Farm Watch Coordinator last year has helped increase Farm Watch membership on OWL from 300 to nearly 800 members in just five months. 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 66% in one year (when comparing June 2014 with June 2013).

Welcoming news of the funding, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston, said: "People in rural communities are a special group as they are often isolated and hard to reach. This new project will help break down those barriers and provide us with another weapon in our arsenal to tackle rural crime.

We have already generated overwhelmingly positive results here in Gwent and I believe this additional tool will help us have more of a joined up approach with other forces, businesses, organisations and communities throughout England and Wales. This network will be a one stop shop for sharing valuable information and collaborating on initiatives which aim to tackle rural crime and it will add value to the localised OWL system we have here in Gwent which now boasts over 40,000 registered members."

Policing Minister, Mike Penning, said: "The National Rural Crime Network will help support rural communities and businesses that are all too often targeted by ruthless criminals who consider homes and property in the countryside an easy target. This collaborative approach between North Yorkshire Police and dozens of PCCs around England and Wales will enable forces and neighbourhoods to become more resilient in preventing these crimes and protecting businesses and communities in rural areas." In addition to working with National Neighbourhood Watch and Crimestoppers, the NCRN will encourage the development of strong links between national policing leads for rural and wildlife crime, for heritage crime, and for interested organisations such as the National Farmers Union.

The Home Office believes greater collaboration between the emergency services will improve standards and drive out inefficiencies. Many PCCs are exploring opportunities for integration. The Government wants to see more of this and the funding announced today will support such innovation.

The following forces have signed up to participate in the scheme: Avon & Somerset, Cheshire, Cleveland, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon & Cornwall, Dorset, Durham, Dyfed-Powys, Essex, Gloucestershire, Gwent, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Kent, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Thames Valley, Warwickshire, West Mercia, Wiltshire.