'Police must understand rural crime'

Many police officers fail to appreciate the impact of rural crime, suggests a study.

Farmer's daughter Molly Dickson investigated farm crime and farmers’ perceptions of policing in her home county of Hertfordshire.

The study was undertaken as part of her degree at Harper Adams University, Shropshire.

Hertfordshire was the first police force in England to pioneer the rural special constable initiative in 2009.

Ms Dickson evaluated the role of rural specials in Hertfordshire – and believes they have a better understanding of rural crime and its implications than regular police officers.

A farmer’s daughter from St Albans, Ms Dickson said lack of police manpower and resources were common issues raised by farmers.

Although police understanding of farmers’ concerns was improving, many officers did not understand the full impact of rural crime.

“There is a general consensus among Hertfordshire farmers that the deterrents and levels of fines for fly-tipping and hare coursing are not severe enough and that the judiciary don’t understand the implications and costs of these crimes to farmers.”

Fly-tipping and hare coursing were particular concerns and incidents had escalated in Hertfordshire recently.

But the true level of farm crime appeared to be unknown as only 16% of farmers surveyed by Ms Dickson reported all the crimes they suffered to police.

“The survey found that Hertfordshire farmers’ perceptions of policing are varied, with many appreciating the work the force do,” she said. “However, the results indicated there is still room for improvement.”

Ms Dickson added: ““Rural specials are volunteers but with the same police powers as regular officers. I found that on the whole, Hertfordshire farmers believe that the rural special initiative is a really positive thing.

“Rural specials also have greater knowledge of the local area and community which is beneficial when preventing and solving crime and to an extent they have played a part in educating regular officers on rural matters.”


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