How will police commissioner candidates tackle rural crime in Suffolk?
- Credit: Archant
Candidates hoping to be elected as Suffolk's police and crime commissioner have set out their proposals to fight rural crime.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) wrote to candidates ahead of the poll on May 6.
It asked each to commit to a 'rural manifesto' focusing on tackling wildlife and rural businesses crime, supporting the National Rural Crime Network and promoting the Countryside Code, education and greater joined-up enforcement work.
CLA East acting regional director Nick Sandford said PCCs had the wherewithal to make a difference through targeted funding, resourcing and training.
In response, each of Suffolk's candidates for PCC set out their approach to dealing with rural crime.
Conservative incumbent Tim Passmore said tackling rural crime was a major priority for police and a core commitment in his manifesto.
He added: "As PCC, I fully endorse the CLA's rural manifesto and, if re-elected, pledge to do everything possible to ensure its implementation.
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"This means boosting the capacity of our rural crime team who, like the whole force, deliver some excellent results.
"There will be new initiatives to tackle the scourge of fly-tipping, unauthorised traveller encampments and wildlife crime and bring offenders to justice and receive adequate sentencing.
"I have regular liaison meetings with the CLA and National Farmers Union (NFU). Protecting Suffolk’s rural economy is fundamental to our wellbeing.
"The National Rural Crime Network has my full support as current vice-chairman.
"I have championed the force’s special constabulary rural initiatives and our volunteers on horseback scheme, who do so much to help keep the countryside safe – we are all very grateful.
"We all have a responsibility to confront rural crime, follow the Country Code and work together with the constabulary."
Labour candidate Elizabeth Hughes said the personal cost of clearing domestic and commercial fly-tipping was huge – and the threat of criminal activity on property was constant.
“Criminals are actively out there, gathering information about farmers and targeting their property and businesses," she added.
"It isn’t a happy thought, is it, that you are being watched constantly, that you are a potential target of organised and sophisticated criminals?”
Her proposals include long-term support and retention of specialist rural crime officers, cross-border intelligence sharing and working closely with other countries where stolen machinery can be exported.
Mrs Hughes advocates the use of modern communication and reporting technology to track criminal activity.
She also wants to see up-to-date intelligence around criminal activity and community vulnerabilities, with hot-spots quickly identified, trends actively tracked and solutions adequately resourced.
Mrs Hughes wants to extend support for people in rural areas who are adversely affected and isolated by domestic crime, violence and sexual offences.
She also calls for improved information hubs, with online, phone and referral points.
Liberal Democrat candidate James Sandbach said he backed the CLA's priorities.
He said: "An underlying problem is that rural communities don’t get the support through public services that are more widely available in urban areas, coupled with an absence of a visible police presence in rural areas, and it is at least perceived that that rural crime doesn't get taken seriously.
Mr Sandbach said a key point in his campaign has been to for more focus on community policing.
He said: "I'd like to see more PCSOs with specific responsibilities to liaise with rural parishes, with each parish able to work with a designated PCSO.
"I also advocate for local police stations – including smaller police stations in market towns – to have either front counter services or outreach surgeries, so that they are more accessible.
"As well as designated PCSOs, each neighbourhood policing team covering rural catchments should have a rural crime lead, with expertise in farm security and the ability to share intelligence with neighbouring police forces and other agencies.
"In Suffolk, there are two specialist rural crime teams. I would work with the chief constable to look at how they can be best deployed, investigating how other counties work on rural crime
Mr Sandbach said he would lobby for the Home Office police funding formula to take into account the unit-cost of policing a rural area.
He would also like the funding formula to reflect that the work of officers is not all crime-related but also taken up by road safety, or responding to welfare and mental health issues.
He also calls for more investment in technologies to assist detection and prevention, such as increased deployment of automatic number plate recognition technology.
"Finally, we need to look out more for the needs of young people in rural communities for whom isolation and lack of social or economic opportunities can be a cause of mental ill health leading to other problems such as anti-social behaviour," he added.
"This is also the point at which young people can become vulnerable to potential engagement with criminal gangs."
Although an almost life-long 'townie', Green Party candidate Andy Patmore has lived in rural locations over the years and has a love of the countryside.
He said: "My main proposal to tackle environmental crimes would be to establish a countywide Environmental Crimes Task Force.
"This unit would be responsible for investigating such crimes. From fly-tipping to animal cruelty, they would seek to bring the culprits to justice.
"Logistically, I would imagine three separate divisions to be able to cover the entire county and a central location to coordinate them.
"Coupled with this, I would love to see a permanent police presence in rural locations.
"Petty crimes such as shed break-ins largely go investigated due to the length of time that it might take for police to respond from the nearest police station.
"Having a police officer or even a PCSO based in these locations would allow for a quicker response."