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Rural communities living 'in fear of crime'

Rural communities are living in fear of crime, unhappy with the police and feeling isolated and vulnerable, according to the latest National Rural Crime Survey.

Published by the National Rural Crime Network, the survey suggests the perception of policing in rural communities is poor – and much worse than in urban areas.

The network comprises 30 Police and Crime Commissioners, supported by a range of other organisations – including the Rural Services Network – with an interest in community safety and rural affairs.

Findings and recommendations from the survey, called Living on the Edge, were published in a report on Monday (23 July).

Only 27% of respondents to the survey say their local police are doing a good job – some 11% lower than when the same question was asked in 2015.

The figure is also lower than the national figure from the Crime Survey of England and Wales which finds 62% rate the police in their area as good or excellent.

Network chairwoman Julia Mulligan, who is Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, described the survey as a wake-up call for those in positions of power:

“These results are stark and worrying. Crime is up. Anger is up. Frustration is up. Trust is down. Those rating the police as good is down.

Police funding

“With 10.3 million people living in rural areas, these are trends we can no longer ignore.

“Every decision affecting national policing moving forwards, from funding to safety and security, has to be set against the findings of this report.

“This report needs to be listened to in the future when decisions on funding are being made, we can no longer continue to see funding being sucked from rural areas to urban.

“It simply isn’t good enough and politicians need to sit up and listen.”

Common concerns include fly tipping and speeding – not solely policing matters.

Some 57% of respondents said they had seen evidence of fly tipping in the past year, topping the list of offences, with speeding second at 32%.

Both were clearly important for rural communities, said the network but were not solely policing issues with responsibility shared among local authorities and other agencies.

Rural needs

The network said it believed too many partners, like local authorities, were less able to respond to the needs of rural communities.

Crime, and the fear of crime, was leading to emotional strain and a loss of confidence, particularly among young people, families and farmers, it warned.

Some 69% of farmers and rural-specific business owners said they had been a victim of crime over the past 12 months with 60% saying they were worried about becoming a victim.

Ultimately, rural communities are not understood, and services do not match need, said the network.

Too often rural communities are considered safe and prosperous places, this preconception stops serious needs analysis being done, it warned.

Recommendations

The network has produced ten recommendations as a result of the survey:

  •  We need chief constables to change the policing of rural communities
  • We need to do more to understand rural crime and its impact
  • We need to put that understanding into practice
  • We need to put more focus on farmers and specific rural businesses
  • We need to work together on organised crime
  • We need the criminal justice system to understand rural communities
  • We need justice to be done and be seen to be done for rural communities
  • We need to make reporting crimes easier
  • We need to do more to help rural residents and businesses with crime prevention
  • We need to ensure victims of fly-tipping are not left to pay the price of others’ actions

Ms Mulligan said: “The results of the National Rural Crime Survey, and the wider feedback from rural communities, should not be underestimated.

“It is incumbent on policing, partners and on government and us all to listen, and to act.”

The full report and recommendations can be downloaded here.

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