Calls for riders to keep reporting crime despite feelings of ‘waste of time’

  • Riders and those living in rural areas are urged to keep reporting crime – even if it feels futile – as it helps police build a clearer picture of problems and how to tackle them.

    The Countryside Alliance’s (CA) annual survey, published last month, revealed that 97% of the 2,016 people who took part said that rural crime was a “significant” issue in their community. A total of 49% did not think police take rural crime seriously, and 63% of those who did not report crime they experienced to police said they did not do so because “it was a waste of time”.

    “Rural communities have for a long time been resigned to the fact they will receive a poorer level of response from the police when they have a crime committed against them and this is just unacceptable,” said Sarah Lee, CA director of policy.

    “However, it comes against a backdrop of increasing and competing pressures on rural police forces, who are themselves facing challenges around funding.”

    She added that as the review of the police funding formula gets under way this year, the CA is “urgently” calling on the Government to “level up rural policing, by increasing funding and resources”.

    Essex Police, fire and crime commissioner Roger Hirst, who is also a horse owner, spoke to H&H ahead of Friday’s (10 March) launch of the county’s 2023–2026 rural crime strategy.

    He said that tackling rural crime is “really important”, nodding to the reductions in specific areas of rural crime and the doubling in size of the rural task force in recent years, and stressed that they “need people to report crime”.

    He described the CA’s statistics as a “hair-tearing” moment, as he “needs to get the message across” that reporting crime “really makes a difference and is not a waste of time”.

    Referring to how the phrase “no further action” can be confusing, he said: “But actually, there will be further action around dealing with the data, understanding the patterns of crime and dealing with that.

    “It’s just that your particular crime isn’t going to be the one that leads to the prosecution. I know that’s a really tricky message, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get it across – people do have that sense of despair, that it’s a waste of time, why would I bother calling the police, it’s a lot of time spent waiting on 101.

    “Please use the online website, give the data that you have and keep on doing so, and that way we actually get crime down as we can put in place either preventive patrols, hotspot policing or we can successfully pursue the prosecution.”

    In terms of specific advice for equestrians, he reiterated the basics of keeping tack rooms locked, CCTV and being a member of local watch groups. The strategy contains plans to expand the pilot Essex Horsewatch scheme, where riders are extra “eyes and ears”, supporting police by reporting suspicious activity or crimes.

    Action is happening elsewhere, too. New rural crime task force Northumberland Partnership Against Rural Crime has “big plans in the pipeline” after Northumberland Police secured a “landmark” £250,000 Safer Streets funding.

    Police Scotland and some 35 organisations are also joining forces in the North East Partnership Against Rural Crime (NEPARC), which names equestrian incidents among the crimes it will focus on.

    “The effect of offences within a rural environment can often be far-reaching and impact the victim and the wider community. As a partnership, we will encourage, implement and promote initiatives to prevent and reduce opportunities for such criminality,” said chief inspector Simon Reid, NEPARC chair.

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