Angelique Foster, Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner, has driven further improvements to combat rural crime as part of her robust programme of scrutiny.
The Commissioner made Rural Crime a key priority of her Police and Crime Plan and is pleased that the force is delivering against her expectations with improved effectiveness in the response and investigation of rural crimes.
This week, the Commissioner heard further evidence of Derbyshire Constabulary’s progress at her latest Performance Scrutiny Meeting (PSM) focused on Rural Crime.
Communities will welcome the implementation of a new Rural Crime classification to help distinguish between crimes that occur in urban or built areas from those in rural areas with fewer residents. This will allow officers to analyse crime types and trends more accurately and better understand service quality issues affecting rural communities. It has also been adapted to include semi-rural areas to capture information and data relating to communities on the edge of urbanised areas.
Derbyshire’s Rural Crime Team has also agreed on a series of priorities comprising Agricultural, Equine, Wildlife and Heritage and will deal with these problems wherever they occur in the force area – urban or rural. The largest issue for the team in the past 12 months was Agricultural (with 134 records) followed by Wildlife (97 records).
Data presented at the meeting showed positive progress is being made in tackling the issues that concern rural residents with residential burglary rates across rural areas falling by 17.5 per cent and business burglary rates by 50.9 per cent when comparing 2022-23 data to 2019-20 (the period prior to the Commissioner’s election). Meanwhile, vehicle crime in rural Derbyshire (including agricultural vehicles) has reduced by 6.2 per cent.
In further developments, the force has introduced a new network of dedicated SPOCs (Single Point of Contact) officers on all Safer Neighbourhood Teams to engage with rural communities and the RCT who are all now undergoing training. An additional 18 officers have undertaken Wildlife Officer Training and will function as points of contacts for all operational departments of the force.
Meanwhile, new monthly Rural Crime Tasking meetings are being held to review priorities, share regional information and highlight ‘persons of interest’ and a new RCT shift pattern has been implemented to provide seven-days-a-week cover and early morning and evening visibility which has improved operations.
The updates come as the Commissioner announced the launch of a new Derbyshire Partnership Against Rural Crime. This brings together key crime prevention experts and rural campaigners to work proactively to tackle the issues that blight our countryside and affect rural residents.
The Partnership will design an action plan specific to Derbyshire with the objective to help prevent and reduce rural crimes. Plans for the creation of a rural crime reduction online ‘hub’ have also been agreed.
Police and Crime Commissioner Angelique Foster said: “Significant progress has now been made in the way our police force tackle rural crime. It is good to see that the additional funding I have invested into the RCT and in the extra crime prevention initiatives within our rural communities is making a difference.
“The force has reassured me that Rural Crime will remain a core focus and I will continue to closely monitor performance to ensure rural residents receive the policing service they deserve. The new Rural Crime classification will help pinpoint issues of concern and ensure resources are directed to where they are needed most.
“Ensuring the force has the equipment, training and technology it needs to make our rural communities safer and bring offenders to justice will continue to drive my funding plans for the next 12 months. I am determined to build on the success achieved to date and will continue working hard to build confidence and satisfaction in rural policing.”
The Commissioner has recently spearheaded the countywide roll-out of an initiative giving farmers the opportunity to have their vehicles, machinery and equipment securely marked with ‘Datatag’ products at a reduced cost to help deter thieves.
Her ongoing support of crime prevention groups has also improved engagement between rural officers and residents.
Many Community Speedwatch groups are now active in rural and semi-rural areas as well as large numbers of Neighbourhood Watch groups. More than 2,800 users have signed up to Derbyshire Alert’s Farm Watch group and a similar Horse Watch group on the platform now has 1,200 users.
Following her investment in rural crime, the volume of successful investigations has also grown. In recent weeks, the RCT has recovered £3k of stolen horse tack, a stolen caravan, secured convictions for offenders who caused damage to historic stain glass windows at Bolsover Castle and recovered stolen plant and farm machinery items and an e-bike.
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