In recent weeks I have written about many pieces of work being carried out in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by the police and partners to keep people and communities safe.
This week I want to focus on another subject which is very important to many, many people all across the area I serve – rural crime – something, in one form or another, which takes up a large part of my post bag.
This week saw the launch of the national rural crime survey and I want to urge all those living or working rurally to take 15 minutes or so out of your day to complete the survey. This is your chance to give us your views on how crime has affected you or your community.
You can do that here > http://www.nationalruralcrimenetwork.net/research/internal/2018survey/
So what is the ‘rural crime’ we are seeking to understand? It is not solely about agriculture, farming or wildlife related crimes. Basically it is any crime – that includes online fraud, violence, drink driving and criminal damage – that takes place in a rural setting.
The first rural crime survey was carried out in 2015, when 13,193 people took part. Let’s make this survey even bigger and better. I sit on the Executive Board of the National Rural Crime Network and can assure you – we will be looking closely at the results and using this to help inform our work and shape our future priorities so it’s a great opportunity to have your say.
The costs of rural crime is hard to quantify. The 2015 survey suggested the true cost of crime in rural areas could exceed £800m - 21 times higher than previous estimates – with hard-pressed young families and farmers the most frequent victims of crime. However does this figure really include the cost of crimes such as drink driving or child sexual exploitation in rural areas or the cost of online fraud in rural communities? I don’t think so and as such this is likely to be a considerable under-estimate.
The survey also seeks to understand people’s attitudes around the fear of crime and crime reporting. The last survey showed that people living in rural areas were less likely to report a crime, were less satisfied with policing performance and that overall the fear of crime was higher in rural areas than other parts of the country.
The last survey showed that one in four people in rural areas didn’t report the last crime to which they fell victim – which is something we absolutely need to change.
While these figures are concerning the survey also showed that people in rural areas are very resilient. That sense of community spirit is very clear as I visit rural communities through Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
And it is that resilience that the police, local authorities, emergency service colleagues must support to help make rural communities safer because if we are going to make things better then we must work together at both local and national level.
My team and I – along with the Chief Constable - are working hard to improve connectivity between our communities and policing so we can help to build safe, resilient and connected communities.
Schemes like my new councillor advocate scheme and a pilot which allows police officers to use local fire stations in north Devon are just two ways we are trying to increase that focus.
I will be looking with interest at the results of the survey around these issues for Devon and Cornwall to help us understand how our communities feel and what we can do to continue to improve.
One of the key concerns that is often raised by people who live rurally is road safety. As we head towards the summer holiday season we will see an increase in drivers unfamiliar with driving on rural roads. If we are to make our roads safer we all need to work together.
Roads like the A361 north Devon link road, which is the lifeline from the M5 to north Devon, are essential to the economy of the area. I fully support Devon County Council’s funding bid to Government to secure major improvements for the A361 where we expect a decision later this year.
But the A361 is not the only challenge we face. My team and the police are seeking to work ever more closely with our partners across the two counties to ensure we understand the challenges and can work together to solve them.
In May some of my team will be in Princetown – meeting to discuss antisocial driving on Dartmoor.
I am also delighted to announce that my engagement team will be joined at many of the shows and festivals we are attending this year by our brilliant Rural Specials Team.
This group of dedicated volunteer police officers have a passion for rural issues – and will be on hand to give advice and support and to hear your views. We look forward to seeing you this summer.
While we all live busy lives I would urge those of you who live or work in our rural communities to find a spare 15 minutes or so to complete the survey >http://www.nationalruralcrimenetwork.net/research/internal/2018survey/