FROM rounding up lost sheep to leading cross-border criminal investigations, rural policing has always been unique.
And despite years of budget cuts, officers in the Dales are proving that grassroots policing continues to be at the heart of Durham Constabulary.
Officers at Barnard Castle Neighbourhood Policing Team were host to Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, who joined their team for the day last week.
Based in Barnard Castle, the small team is led by neighbourhood inspector, Ed Turner, who covers a patch of more than 300 square miles covering both Teesdale and Weardale.
With such a large patch, including towns like Stanhope, Barnard Castle and numerous villages and hamlets in between, building relationships with residents can often mean the difference between a key piece of intelligence and none at all.
First to accompany Mr Hogg was PC Dave Williamson, who has been serving his community for 12 years.
He explained how often it is a friendly face can resolve incidents rather than using force.
He said: “Beat work is about gratuity – you need to get to know people and the community.
“It’s about trust and people see you as a person as opposed to just a police officer.”
Mr Hogg was also introduced to a farmer who had his quad bike stolen.
A prompt 999 call meant traffic officers were quickly despatched to chase down his most valuable piece of kit while the team also used CCTV and Teesdale Farm Watch – a team of volunteers who alert police to suspicious activity in the Dale – to locate it.
The rider ditched the quad in a layby but thanks to crime scene investigators, the culprit was identified.
Along with existing safeguards on his property, the farmer has also now fitted a tracker to his quad as an extra deterrent.
He praised the police for their quick response and highlighted the importance of Farm Watch which has launched its own WhatsApp group in both Teesdale and Weardale.
The service is also in the process of rebranding itself Rural Watch – to encapsulate all residents.
It is currently operated through the Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services (UTASS), which was launched in 2000 to help farmers.
Now it offers more than 50 services from internet access to youth sessions.
Mr Hogg visited UTASS, in Middleton-in-Teesdale, where he spoke to members about the important role it plays.
He also heard about the sister initiative Keep In The Know – a free messaging service where residents decide when and how they are kept informed about the issues that matter to them – as well as What3words, which allows people to pinpoint their location using just three words.
Technology was also discussed with the chief executive of Raby Estates, Duncan Peake, who met with Mr Hogg and praised the police team for their efforts to work more collaboratively.
Speaking about his visit Mr Hogg said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with the neighbourhood team and found it so valuable to meet residents and hear about their issues.
“I am committed to the interests of rural communities and will continue to work with all agencies to improve policing across the Dales.”
Inspector Turner added: “The team were pleased to welcome Mr Hogg to Teesdale to see the important the work that officers, organisations and volunteers do in a unique part of the world.
“I look forward to working with him more closely on rural initiatives.”
Posted on Wednesday 5th June 2019