Farmers demand action over 'high' crime levels on Suffolk-Essex border
PUBLISHED: 18:48 14 December 2018
Policing along the Suffolk/Essex border has come under fire at a farmers' meeting in Lavenham.
Around 100 farmers and landowners from around the picturesque tourist area, many of whom have been hit by crimes ranging from machinery theft and fly-tipping to hare coursing, put their concerns to Suffolk Chief Constable Gareth Wilson, local MP James Cartlidge, Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore and representatives of rural crime teams in Suffolk and Essex.
They pointed to long response times, and issues with crime detection and cross-border policing, as well as a more threatening tone to some hare coursing incidents, as they related their experiences at the meeting on Friday (December 14).
Event co-ordinator Denise Thomas said they wanted to make police and politicians aware of the “current unacceptably high level and impact of serious rural crime” and what needs to be done ensure criminals are caught and deterred. “We are too frequently told that the police do not have the resources to be effective and the criminals are aware of this and are carrying on unchecked, which is wrecking peoples’ lives,” she said.
One of the farmers behind the event, Chris Haylock, said frustrated farmers were reporting hare coursing incidents only to find units were being deployed from long distances, so that by the time they arrived, the action had moved on.
“We are getting to the point where, being on the border between the two counties, you have two police forces who don’t talk to each other,” he said. He felt hare coursers and other criminals were aware of potential border delays which attracted them to such areas.
Police representatives said they would look into the issue and resolve any problems on the ground, but made clear while investigations had to be led by the relevant geographic force, response teams could be and were deployed from either side of the border as incidents unfolded.
“We have got a very strong relationship, and if people are concerned about how we police the borders, I would be more than happy to speak to my colleagues about it,” said Chief Constable Wilson. “The border isn’t visible to criminals - it shouldn’t be visible to policing either.”
He added: “There’s a general concern amongst the public that crime is increasing and we have seen the fact that violent crime is increasing across the country, and that’s no different in rural communities. The thing that’s different is people in rural areas have additional vulnerabilities.”
On Thursday (December 13) Mr Cartlidge raised his concerns in the House of Commons about rural crime following “a wave of significant incidents on the Suffolk-Essex borders in recent months” and asked about future policing resources. He was particularly concerned about two recent ram-raid incidents in Lavenham.
Policing minister Nick Hurd announced an increase in the Suffolk policing settlement which would allow “a further investment of up to £9m”. This would be made up of a £1.3m Home Office grant, an assumed £6.5m rise in the policing precept (meaning about an extra £2 a month per council tax payer) and a further one-off grant of £1.2m to help with the Suffolk police pension deficit.
Mr Passmore welcomed the decision, saying it could lead to up to 90 more officers for the Suffolk force, which was “under severe pressure”. He blamed an ‘unfair’ historic funding formula which he hopes will be addressed at next year’s government Comprehensive Spending Review.
Farmers were urged to phone 999 to report any incidents, particularly ones unfolding, or alternatively 101, a service which had recently been improved.