Rural crime down but organised gangs still a threat to countryside

The Rural Policing Team has been in existence for two years Picture: JAMES BASS

The Rural Policing Team has been in existence for two years Picture: JAMES BASS - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2015

New figures have revealed a decline in rural crime across Suffolk over the last three years.

An annual report showed a total of 152 rural crimes had been recorded so far this year.

The total has fallen in consecutive years from 423 for the whole of 2016 to 372 for 2018.

Police figures follow NFU Mutual's findings that rural crime cost Suffolk almost £1.119m in 2018, compared to £1.243m in 2017.

Despite the fall, NFU Mutual, which sells insurance policies mainly through agents in rural areas, and works closely with the National Farmers Union, said problems persist.

And last week, police and crime commissioner (PCC) Tim Passmore said he was concerned that rural communities felt frustrated by sentences handed down to criminals who target remote areas of the county.

The annual report provided an update on the Rural Policing Strategy, launched in March 2017 with the support of the NFU and Country Landowners Association

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The Rural Policing Team has been in existence for two years and investigates crimes which require specialist knowledge, such as offences committed against wildlife, including illegal hunting, poaching and trapping, unlawful trade in endangered species, theft of livestock and dogs worrying livestock.

The team has also managed specific operations to tackle organised crime such as patrols directed at deer poaching on the county's farms, while Operation Galileo targets organised crime groups involved in hare coursing.

In 2018/19, there was a 50% fall in reported incidents of hare coursing. Despite the reduction, hare coursing will feature as a high priority area for the team over the coming months, due to it being a national priority, and there being a national rise in the violence against officers and landowners by hare coursers.

Mr Passmore told a meeting of the PCC's accountability and performance panel: "I'm concerned that rural communities don't feel the criminal justice system understands the implications of criminal behaviour in their communities.

"People in remote communities feel defiled by their churches being stripped of lead."

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable, David Cutler said the constabulary was engaging with judges at the crown court to improve understanding of the local context when sentencing.

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