Report Reveals £800 Million Rural Crime Bill
Gwent PCC Ian Johnston made his comments in the wake of results from the National Rural Crime Network survey of over 17,000 people living and working in rural areas throughout England and Wales. The results suggest the true cost of crime in rural areas could exceed £800m. This figure is 21 times higher than previous figures, dwarfing earlier estimates.
The National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) survey was conducted between May and June this year. They survey asked for people who work or live in rural areas to come forward and give their views on policing in their community, the impact crime and ASB has on them and their neighbours and to ultimately help shape the future of crime prevention and rural policing.
The survey indicates that farmers and hard-pressed young families are the most frequent victims of crime, with the average cost of those crimes to a household being over £2,500 and for a business over £4,000.
Some of the key results were:
- 39% of rural people are very or fairly worried about becoming a victim of crime, compared to 19% nationally.
- Rural businesses are the most fearful of becoming victims of crime, with 51% very or fairly fearful, closely followed by younger families.
- more than one in four (27%) did not report the last crime of which they were a victim. This means Home Office figures of 294,000 rural crimes between April 2014 and May 2015 could be incorrect and the actual number of crimes could be as high as 403,000.
- two issues of greatest concern to the rural community were road safety (63%) - which the police play a crucial part in, but which they cannot resolve without working with partners - and fly-tipping, which is now a civil offence (61%).
Gwent PCC Ian Johnston is one of the founding members of the NRCN, a new online network which aims to act as a collaborative think tank to tackle rural crime. He is one of 28 Commissioners who signed up to the scheme which is led by North Yorkshire PCC Julia Mulligan. Mr Johnston and the other Commissioners have committed £1,000 per year for the first two years as part of their localised funding commitments to the project.
Gwent Police has already been held up as a model of best practice by the NRCN following the multi-award winning efforts of its Farm Watch scheme to re-engage with rural communities. This has led to an increased confidence in the police and a reduction of 27% in farm related crime in the Force area.
Highlighting the importance of the survey and the importance of maintaining and building relationships with rural communities, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston, said: "Our successful Farm Watch Scheme in Gwent is a perfect example of how engaging directly with our rural communities can reap real rewards. This survey has shown the cost and the scale of the challenges faced in policing our rural communities is unprecedented and has highlighted why it is important to maintain and improve services to them. We want to make sure our rural communities in Gwent are getting the quality of service they need and deserve and this can only be achieved with the police, partners and the Government working together to tackle certain issues. What this report has highlighted is that there are and will be further consequences if the Government continues with its policy of continued budget cuts to frontline policing."
The results of the survey were presented at and discussed with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services in the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday September 15th.
- Fair funding for rural policing - we are calling for the review of the funding formula to recognise the costs of policing rural areas. Providing services across large, sparsely populated geographical areas is relatively expensive on a per capita basis, and as resources come under even greater pressure, this is becoming even more challenging.
- Rural communities encouraged to report all incidents including crime, anti-social behaviour, road safety concerns and fly tipping - there is a clear reluctance to report crime in rural areas, which could be due to fear of repercussions in small communities, a lack of confidence in the vigour of a police response or a mix of other reasons. However, for the police to meet the needs of rural communities and set appropriate policing priorities, then rural communities need to report all incidents.
- Police, government and other partners must work better together - good rural policing is about far more than numbers of police officers on the ground. If we truly want to tackle rural crime, then we must form more effective partnerships between the police, rural communities and other authorities. Consideration needs to be given to the nature and size of resources and potential for multidisciplinary teams, something more commonly done in urban areas, but which can be less developed in rural locations.
- Policing must be targeted better - police resources are routinely focused on areas which have the greatest 'threat, risk and harm'. The police need to acknowledge the lack of trust and confidence in the police as a significant risk. In addition work needs to be done to ensure the assessment of threat, risk and harm is as applicable to rural communities as urban and take into consideration the context of policing rural environments. This is especially important as budgets come under even greater scrutiny. Within rural areas the survey highlighted more vulnerable victims on the fringes of urban areas and includes businesses, farmers and hard pressed young families in particular. At present, assessments of 'vulnerability' rarely take such factors into account.
- Innovative ways to tackle crimes in rural areas and sharing of best practice - particular challenges exist in tackling some crime types when perpetrated in rural areas, for example, drug dealing, domestic abuse and burglary, including heritage and wildlife crimes which very often present different demands from incidents in cities and urban areas. The College of Policing needs to increase its focus on rural areas and there needs to be a concerted effort to work with academia to improve knowledge and embed best practice.
- Businesses are victims too - this survey shines light on the significant impact of crime on rural businesses. In targeting their activities, the police and partners need to develop specific prevention and response policies focused on improving protection for rural businesses. Where this exists, best practice needs to be better shared.
- Build on rural resilience - it is clear from the results that the nature of close knit rural communities presents an opportunity for service providers. Much good practice exists, but police and their partners need to reassess their engagement and communication models to leverage the resilience of local communities. The skill mix of teams and issues such as turnover of staff based in the community need to be considered to help protect and nurture essential relationships.