Rural crime and measures to tackle it are being highlighted during a week of action starting today, Monday.
Offences including the theft of farm equipment, targeting of small businesses, wildlife crime, hare coursing, fly tipping and heritage crime will be under the spotlight as officers run a number of enforcement and awareness operations in aid of the national initiative.
Rural crime is defined as any crime that takes place in a rural location or where the victim is targeted because of their connection to the rural community, economy or area.
It cost the UK nearly £50 million in 2022, up from just over £40 million in 2021 and while it decreased in Gloucestershire according to NFU Mutual, it is still a substantial concern for many communities and is having a devastating effect on victims.
Gloucestershire Constabulary has dedicated rural crime officers in place to respond to the issues and has invested in a range of state of the art technology such as quad bikes, drones and night vision goggles that can be critical when responding to offences in rural areas.
The number of specialist officers is set to increase in the next few months but officers from all departments are frequently involved in responding to rural crime.
Superintendent Paul Keasey said: “Rural areas typically tend to be safer, but the impact of crime is often greater on victims in the countryside due to their remote and isolated locations, making them feel more vulnerable and concerned. They also pose a threat to public health and safety, as well as animal welfare.
“The scale, cost, social impact and other effects of crime in rural areas are underestimated, under-reported and not fully understood.
“Farming communities are facing fear and intimidation from groups of criminals and this has severe impacts on agricultural businesses. This in turn negatively impacts both the local and national economy.
“The loss of equipment may not be noticed immediately and its detection can often be challenging but this type of crime has a real impact on peoples’ livelihoods and community confidence, heighten the feelings of vulnerability and fear of crime in rural locations.
“That’s why a week like this is really important and why we, alongside our partner agencies, want to demonstrate our support of rural communities and explain what we are doing and how the community can help. By working together, we can make sure criminals don’t think they can come to Gloucestershire and take advantage.”
Chris Nelson, Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire, said: “I’m determined that there should be a proper focus on rural crime in Gloucestershire because I’ve heard first-hand the impact that it can have on rural business owners and their families, made worse by the isolation of these communities. Although I am very pleased that recent figures from NFU mutual show a welcome reduction in the cost of rural crime, I do not want to rest on our laurels as I believe there is a lot more to do.
“That’s why I’ve funded a doubling in the size of the Gloucestershire Rural Crime Team, and provided them with state of the art equipment through the Home Office Safer Streets Fund. I expect that we’ll see that investment put to good use during rural crime week to both raise awareness about this type of crime, and take the fight to offenders through proactive operations to make it clear that we will not tolerate this sort of criminality in Gloucestershire.”