Hampshire Police and Crime Panel calls for more support in rural communities to help protect against rural crime
Hampshire’s Police and Crime Panel (PCP) has informed the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) that greater police support is needed to help protect residents against rural crime across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
The comments, collected from residents themselves across the two counties, and from evidence presented by the Constabulary, are the result of a recent proactive scrutiny session held by the Panel. The feedback will now be put forward to Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Hayes, as part of the Panel’s work to scrutinise his work.
The Panel introduced proactive scrutiny sessions earlier this year. The first topic for review was rural crime – a key policy area for the PCC during his period of office, and a priority area within the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan, which pledges to ‘improve frontline policing to deter criminals and keep communities safe’. In order to ensure consistency of policing delivery to both urban and rural communities, the PCC pledged to develop with the Constabulary, a Rural Crime Strategy – drafted in 2013.
The proactive scrutiny of rural crime considered the actions of the PCC in his aim ‘over three years to reduce by 50 per cent the gap in solved crime rates between rural and non-rural beats, whist improving existing solved crime rates in non-rural areas’. It considered evidence relating to the PCC’s set outcome, and aimed to develop recommendations to the Commissioner which would support him and his work, in this area.
The three key areas reviewed, were:
• How well is the PCC working with partners organisations to tackle rural crime?
• What is the impact on rural communities in Hampshire, and how best can we empower communities to prevent crime?
• What best practice exists which could be considered by the PCC as part of his pledge to reduce rural crime?
As a result, the PCP agreed from the evidence that rural crime tends to impact communities differently but the economic effects are similar: financial loss, increase in insurance premiums, and cost of prevention. The social impact is often greater however, because rural crime is more ‘unexpected’ and seen as a ‘breach of trust’ in tight-knit rural communities, who can feel more isolated and vulnerable.
Evidence also highlighted examples of best practice where simple actions taken by local community police officers – such as meeting with community representatives, listening to concerns and agreeing an action plan between respective parties – improves relationships and can reduce and prevent rural crime.
Consequently, at its latest meeting (3 October), the PCP submitted nine recommendations for the Police and Crime Commissioner to consider and respond to.
• The PCC should explore holding community awareness projects organising events in rural communities to assist local people to develop their own crime prevention schemes.
• The PCC should explore with the Constabulary how to improve communication with local communities to encourage the reporting of rural crime.
• Better links should be made with local authorities through the PCC to ensure that urgent works requested by the police to tackle rural crime are recognised and expedited as part of a partnership approach.
• The PCC should continue to promote the use of Neighbourhood Watch in local communities across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight – encouraging volunteers to help protect their area against rural crime.
Chairman of the Hampshire Police and Crime Panel, Councillor David Stewart, said: “With a large proportion of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight being rural in nature, this type of crime has a considerable impact on local communities. This scrutiny exercise, involving the collating of comments and evidence from various parties – including residents and the Constabulary itself, is an valuable exercise to provide constructive feedback to the Police and Crime Commissioner, and support to his work. The exercise is also an example of how Hampshire’s Police and Crime Panel is able to represent the voice and expectations of residents, and relay their views to the Commissioner, who is directly accountable to the public.”
The full ‘Rural Crime’ Proactive Scrutiny Report can be found in the PCP website: www.hants.gov.uk/hampshire-pcp