Dorset Police Crime Commissioner, David Sidwick, updates Dorchester Chamber for Business on rural crime.
The National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) believes that the scale, cost, social impact, and other effects of crime in rural areas are underestimated, under-reported and not fully understood.
I share the NCRN’s views and concerns about rural crime and the impact on individuals and communities living and/or working in the Dorset countryside.
Dorset is a proudly rural county, and when I became Police and Crime Commissioner I wanted from the outset to do something to help those agricultural and other isolated communities who have in the past felt overlooked.
So, it is with that sense of purpose in mind that this week I went to the Police and Crime Panel to discuss my plans on what I’m going to do to ‘level up’ policing for Dorset’s rural communities.
To ‘Fight Rural Crime’ is a priority within my Police and Crime Plan for Dorset and is essentially made up of four sub-themes: Rural Resources, Country Watch, Fly Tipping, and Wildlife Crime.
Rural Resources focuses on increasing the size of the Force’s Rural Crime Team (RCT); introducing special constables with a rural crime specialism; working with rural communities to improve communication between victims and the police and confidence in reporting crime; and ensuring a regional approach to more effectively fight organised crime in rural areas across the South West.
The Country Watch Scheme will bring together rural communities and relevant agencies to best address crime, ASB and disorder issues in rural areas. This will include a strengthening of rural watch schemes, including initiatives for parish safety and grant funding to improve resilience in Dorset’s more remote areas; working with rural businesses to prevent crime such as funding innovative tactics and ensuring the Force understands the impact of crime on rural victims; and to oversee the work to fight rural crime introduce a Rural Crime Reduction Board in partnership with key agencies, organisations and communities in rural areas.
Fly Tipping and related crime can blight our countryside and key to tackling this is to work effectively in partnership with agencies, such as the local councils and the Environment Agency, to prevent and detect fly tipping issues across Dorset. This will include introducing new approaches to dealing with fly tipping in hotspot locations and lobbying for tougher sanctions for those responsible for fly tipping and related crimes.
Wildlife Crime focuses on increasing the awareness and understanding of wildlife crime and the impact it has on people living and working in the Dorset countryside. It will include support for schemes proven to reduce incidents; ensuring that the police have the required knowledge to deal with wildlife crime such as hare coursing and poaching; and also increasing the analysis and liaison across the region to tackle any organised criminality associated with wildlife crime.
We are moving at pace in all these areas, Country Watch is now taking shape and back in November I held the first Rural Crime Round Table; the meeting brought together interested parties from the police to national rural business groups, national and local government agencies, and local community organisations. The meeting was incredibly productive and set out several shared concerns, but more importantly it pulled together the ways in which we could, as a collective address them.
From that first meeting, we are moving on to develop the first Rural Crime Reduction Board for Dorset. An early objective for this Board will be to agree a delivery plan by the summer – this plan will complement the commitments within the Police and Crime Plan, as well as address the four main categories (reporting, communication and engagement, fly-tipping, and prevention) that were raised through the Rural Crime Round Table.
I saw for myself last week just how much effort goes into tackling rural crime when I was invited to attend a multi-agency operation to target hare coursers and poachers.
This operation saw officers from across county borders working together, using information given to them by the rural community to tackle rural crime and I simply could not be prouder of the way in which the Dorset Rural Crime Team are doing everything they can to crush these disgusting practices.
The operation has been a huge success in terms of disrupting criminal activity within the area, increasing confidence within the community and bringing offenders to justice.
There is a lot still to do, but I am pleased to say that things are taking shape.
To make the improvements that I want to see in rural policing will take commitment from partner agencies and rural organisations and it will take time to deliver, but I am absolutely dedicated to keeping up the momentum of change on this and making sure that I keep my promise to all those farmers, landowners, dairy workers, stockpersons, herdpersons and tractor drivers I met and spoke with whilst I was on the campaign trail.
I promised to make a difference and that’s exactly what I intend to do.