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Mounted volunteers take on rural crime-busting role

A team of mounted crime-busting volunteers is once again on patrol in Sussex.

The Sussex Equine Rangers scheme, which was started as a pilot project in 2015, was officially relaunched at Plumpton racecourse last month, with Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne, chief constable Jo Shiner and the new Sussex Police rural crime team.

The team, founded in June, has made an impact on rural crime but there are areas officers cannot easily access.

“The riders will patrol on their own horses over various areas in mid-Sussex, effectively acting as eyes and ears for the police,” a spokesman for Mrs Bourne said.

“Every volunteer has been supplied with an application on their phones to facilitate quick reporting and information sharing.”

The team, funded initially by Mrs Bourne in 2015, has been given more funding by the commissioner as well as Sussex Police, for uniforms, training and equipment.

Mrs Bourne said: “I’m delighted to be able to help fund this innovative crime prevention scheme in Sussex.

“Through my ongoing consultations with residents and organisations, including the National Farmers’ Union, I know that our rural and village communities can sometimes feel ‘abandoned’.

“Since the Covid-19 lockdown, there have been many disturbing reports of fly-tipping and expensive equipment theft as well as other crimes affecting the countryside such as hare coursing and poaching. I want to reassure our rural residents that these crimes will not be ignored, and we are investing in better protecting them and their livelihoods.

“This team of dedicated volunteers will be working alongside our newly established rural crime team, reporting suspicious people, vehicles and activity. This vital intelligence sharing will ensure the police are targeting their own patrols and enforcement in the right areas, keeping people feeling safe where they live and work.”

Jade Simmons, who has recently joined the rangers’ committee, told H&H: “They’re looking at raising awareness of the scheme, and rolling it out across the area, and potentially further.

“The 14 people recruited are out hacking anyway, and can report any dangerous driving, fly-tipping, suspicious vehicles, on roads and bridleways.

“The rangers are given hat-cameras, and an app to record and report things, which the police then look at to see if they need following up.

“It’s being able to be a police presence in the community, and see things the police can’t.”

Jade added that wearing the Sussex Police logo means drivers passing inappropriately take notice, “when we say ‘actually, you can’t behave like that’”.

“If you’re out anyway, and have a passion for keeping your area as crime-free as possible, it’s a great way to be involved,” she said. “The police cant be everywhere, and there are so many little thefts and crimes that can be reported, which might not have been before.

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“This helps protect you, as well as your community.”

Chief inspector Steve Biglands wants to roll out the rangers to cover all of Sussex.

“While the police are there to apprehend suspects and enforce the law, we are not always able to provide the constant presence that some communities want,” he said.

“The equine rangers are our eyes and ears in places we can’t get to, and it is a privilege to continue working with such a dedicated team of volunteers.”

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