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Farming opinion: Holding police to account in battle against rural crime

PUBLISHED: 15:09 10 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:09 10 August 2018

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) East regional director Ben Underwood.

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) East regional director Ben Underwood.

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The National Rural Crime Survey makes stark reading, says Ben Underwood, CLA East regional director

The National Rural Crime Survey makes stark reading, says Ben Underwood. Hare coursing is among the crimes to plague rural communities Picture: FRANCES CRICKMOREThe National Rural Crime Survey makes stark reading, says Ben Underwood. Hare coursing is among the crimes to plague rural communities Picture: FRANCES CRICKMORE

The latest findings from the National Rural Crime Survey provide a stark reminder of how people who live and work in countryside view rural crime and how it is being tackled by the police. It is rare for the issue of crime not to be raised whenever I meet with CLA members at events and committee meetings across the region.

The survey reinforces why the CLA takes rural crime so seriously. 69% of farmers and rural-specific business owners have been a victim of crime over the past 12 months with 60% worried about becoming a victim of crime. 
The average financial impact of crime on rural-specific business owners is £4,800.

From the alarming regularity of fly-tipping and machinery theft, to the threats and intimidation faced by landowners and farmers who are confronted with hare coursers on their land, the menace of rural crime is never far away. It is little wonder there is a feeling of isolation and fear for those who call the countryside their home.

One of the major concerns 
from the survey, is the degree to which crime is unreported in rural areas with the survey suggesting more than one in four (27%) victims of crime are apparently not making a report to the police. This highlights a twin problem – not only are previous statistics on rural crime potentially failing to reflect the scale of the problem, but more importantly, why do those 
affected feel contacting the police would be a waste of time or unlikely to have any effect?

Unfortunately, failing to report rural crime creates a vicious circle. Under-reporting makes rural crime figures look less 
of a problem than they really are and reduces the likelihood of police resources being focused on the issue.

Working together is another imperative and this is deservedly highlighted in the recommendations made by the National Rural Crime Network. 
At the CLA, we liaise with police forces across the East of England at a range of levels and we value this opportunity to get the rural voice heard.

We are having frequent and robust meetings and hold the police to account and will continue to push for a level of investment and resource in rural policing that better reflects the seriousness of the criminal activity that takes place in the countryside.

We would welcome a more joined up approach from those involved in rural policing. 
Many of the countryside lanes and trails across our region act as rural motorways for crime, crossing county boundaries 
and the issues faced by our farmers and landowners would benefit from a more regional response.

Much good work has been done by the police in tackling rural crime, but this survey highlights the scale of the problem that they need to deal with. Those of us living in the countryside have a responsibility too. We need to report crimes when we are affected, request a crime number so that the incident is properly recorded and support the many local initiatives which are helping to combat rural crime.

The survey has put a national spotlight on rural crime and highlighted the massive impact it has on those communities and individuals affected. Let’s hope that the recommendations it makes are now acted on, not consigned to the file of good intentions.

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