Crime-free Suffolk villages praised for community spirit

Wattisham village

Wattisham village - Credit: Gregg Brown

More than 20 Suffolk neighbourhoods have the enviable claim of reporting no crime whatsoever in the last year, according to new statistics.

Wilby in Suffolk.

Wilby in Suffolk. - Credit: Archant

Not a single offence was recorded in many undisturbed villages and hamlets across the county during 2014, leading police to praise community spirit and acknowledge rural prevention schemes.

For the second year running, of those places where crime did take place, the ward with the lowest crime rate per head of population was Worlingworth with just 13.6 incidents reported per 1,000 people.

The neighbouring village of Wilby was among 25 locations fortunate enough to be spared any crime at all.

Figures released by Suffolk Observatory, which collects and publishes data from a range of organisations, show the total number of crimes across Suffolk was 38,179 – a rate of 52 per 1,000 people. The average across England and Wales from April 2013 to March 2014 was 66 per 1,000.

Suffolk’s Detective Chief Inspector Tonya Antonis said rural patrols were helping to drive down crime and urged all communities to be active in neighbourhood policing.

Among the other crime ‘not-spots’ were Kettlebaston, Little Finborough, Wangford, Bedingfield, Gosbeck, Gedgrave and Rumburgh.

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The rate across the county remains lower than average but police want to continue driving it down and are urging people in built up areas like Ipswich – where 11,000 crimes were reported last year – to adopt the sense of community more commonly found in the countryside.

DCI Antonis said: “It is great to see certain parishes without any crime.

“We are one of the higher performing counties – particularly for burglary in a dwelling.

“We continue to see a drop in burglaries and robberies, and an increase in solved rates and reports of offences.

“But it’s not all about figures. Our message is for anyone who sees anything suspicious in their neighbourhood to let us know.

“Smaller communities tend to be more inclined to report suspicious activity.”

Rural crime is also a priority for Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, who last year introduced two dedicated teams of rural special constables, including volunteers from the farming industry.

Suffolk’s first rural crime officer was also appointed and equipped with a Land Rover carrying the latest Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system.

DCI Antonis said: “One of Mr Passmore’s priorities is rural crime. Proactive resources put officers out in rural areas.

“Community safety partnerships do great work getting messages out and dedicated patrols are a big deterrent, but it’s also a lot to do with smaller areas having more of a community feel.

“We’re not complacent. Crime still goes on across Suffolk. We recently had a series of burglaries in the west of the county, as well as a spate in Ipswich, and have dedicated resources to deal with that.

“In rural areas we’ve seen a spate of theft of lead from churches. That is a real priority for us. It’s the type of crime that can have a real impact on a community.”

Apart from the crime-free villages, the ward with fewest crimes last year was Rattlesden.

Wilby was among the smaller parishes to enjoy a crime-free year. With a population of just over 200, it has a primary school and a village hall but no longer has any shops or pubs.

Ian Williamson, parish chairman, said: “This is a very settled community.

“I have lived here for 10 years and been on the parish council for the last six. We’re all grateful to benefit from a very low rate of crime.

“We’re a very small village and don’t have a neighbourhood watch scheme. There are just 28 houses in the centre of the village, with the rest spread out around us on farmland.

“We have had quite a number of new people in the village over the years, and an affordable housing scheme is being built at the moment.

“We are on the main road between Framlingham and Stradbroke but the traffic is principally domestic and agricultural.”