County Durham and Darlington Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen has welcomed a new report that shows the county is making rapid progress in its fight against rural crime.
The latest Rural Crime Report by leading rural insurer NFU Mutual shows the cost of rural crime in County Durham fell by almost 30 per cent in 2021 to £260k.
As was the case in 2021, County Durham remains one of few forces nationally to see a reduction in rural crime claims of agricultural vehicles machinery and livestock thefts.
But NFU Mutual warns the situation nationally could worsen over the next 12 months with a 40 per cent increase in rural theft reported across the UK in the first three months of this year.
Commissioner Allen said there would be no let up in her ambition to drive criminals out of the countryside and increase the safety of the county’s rural residents and businesses.
‘Safer Countryside’ features as a key priority in the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan and she has already invested significant funding into new technology and resources to improve the effectiveness of rural officers and help communities play a proactive role against rural crime.
Over the past 12 months, the Commissioner has jointly funded two new Community Speedwatch vans for rural areas with onboard technology to clock multiple speeding motorists.
She has also contributed a grant of £7,500 towards the purchase of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to track the movement of offenders and stolen machinery through the county and is considering the use of drones to collect intelligence to keep rural communities safe.
Commissioner Allen said: “I have listened carefully to rural residents and businesses to understand how crime impacts their lives and livelihoods. I am determined to offer more help which is why I have included tackling rural crime as a key priority in my Police and Crime Plan.
“A lot of work and investment has taken place since I was elected to make our rural communities safer. These figures show that this activity is having a strong impact – but we’re not happy to leave it there. Over the coming year, I will do everything possible to ensure our rural police officers and communities have the resources and tools they need to keep crime out of our countryside.
“I am proud of the commitment and willingness of local people to be part of that movement including our many Community Speedwatch volunteers and members of our Rural Watch schemes for whose information is vital in building our intelligence picture. This support is invaluable and I am confident we will make further progress over the remainder of my tenure.”
Inspector Ed Turner said: “It is extremely encouraging that Durham has again bucked the national trend and has recorded a fall in reported crime in our rural areas.
“A significant part of that success can be attributed to the support we receive from our rural communities themselves and the work we do in partnership with them.
“No one knows our rural communities better than the residents who live and work there, so we continue to build on that knowledge and experience in our fight against rural crime.
“There is always more we can do to protect those who live and work in rural parts of the force and we will continue to do everything in our power to do so.”
Commissioner Allen is keen to expand the reach and uptake of community schemes such as Rural Watch to reduce opportunities for rural crime.
Between 2020-21 and 2021-2022, there was a 26 per cent increase in people signing up to Rural Watch (now standing at 1,568 people in total) while 5,000 residents signed up to a WhatsApp group inthe county sharing intelligence and prevention measures.
In a further scheme backed by the Commissioner, the Constabulary and National Farmers’ Union (NFU) are installing a tracker on every new replacement quad bike to limit the opportunity for theft.
The NFU Mutual report said farm vehicles remained a top target for criminals with Land Rover Defender, quad bike and trailer thefts continuing to plague the countryside.
Last year, the UK cost of agricultural vehicle theft reported to NFU Mutual remained at more than £9m.
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