Technology helps fight against rural crime

POLICE and Crime Commissioners are using innovative ways to address rural concerns, says an influential group of MPs.

The latest progress report on Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) was published by the Home Affairs Select Committee on Monday, 5 May.

The committee concludes that it is still too early to determine whether the introduction of PCCs has been a success.

Although the concept of police and crime commissioners is still on probation, the report highlights innovative ways that PCCs are responding to local concerns.

In Kent, a fleet of 'mobile police contact points' has been rolled out to make it easier for people in rural areas to report a crime or anti-social behaviour, says the document.

In Cheshire, a mobile phone app allows users to report crime directly to the police. A similar mobile app in Gloucestershire allows youngsters to safely report gang-related activity.

At the same time, a series of initiatives to tackle rural crime has been unveiled by PCCs in North Wales, Suffolk and the Thames Valley

This has included the introduction of a 'Country Watch' messaging system in the Thames Valley area to which 7,500 people have signed up to receive alerts and details of police operations.

Elsewhere, in Staffordshire a number plate recognition system to identify uninsured vehicles resulted in over 700 vehicles being seized during its first four months.

"These examples show the various ways in which commissioners have developed innovative ways of responding to local concerns and priorities," says the select committee report

"Furthermore, as the chair of the Association of PCCs noted, they are the kind of initiatives that would not have been done under the former police authorities."

The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners said it welcomed the committee's recognition that public awareness of PCCs had increased greatly since they were introduced.

"The committee is right to say that collaborative working between police forces and partners is one of the most exciting frontiers we can explore," said the association.

"By encouraging collaboration we are saving money, driving increased efficiency and keeping more officers out on patrol," the association added.

Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Countryside Alliance, said: "Commissioners have the difficult task of managing tight budgets, while tackling very different rural and urban crimes in their area."

Policing plans should reflect a balanced approach to fighting crime which must ensure that policing of rural issues did not always come second to urban issues, she added.

The alliance was pleased the report recognised the key role of innovative solutions in fighting crime and would continue to run its successful 'rural round tables' to work with PCCs.

The select committee's full report can be downloaded here.


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