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Harsh reality of rural crime revealed

November 10, 2011 by  
Filed under News & Business

THE devastating impact of rural crime was laid bare by Essex farmer Rosemary Padfield at a major national conference.

Until recently, rural crime was increasing, said Mrs Padfield. Farmers felt abandoned by the police, she told the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) conference on Thursday (10 November).

But a joint initiative between farmers and the police in west Essex had brought a dramatic improvement, leading to better communication, lower crime figures and greater satisfaction in rural policing, she said.

Tractors and machinery were popular targets, with one farmer having a £50,000 tractor stolen just before harvest, Mrs Padfield told conference delegates at the Kettering Conference Centre, Northamptonshire.

One neighbour had £12,000 of red diesel stolen by thieves who drilled a hole in the tank and left fuel running into a land drain. Another grower had his irrigation pump stolen, jeopardising the saleability of his potato crop.

“All found the police’s response slow and disinterested, that’s if they bothered to turn up at all, as in one of the cases. As long as a crime reference number was given the feeling seemed to be the job was finished.”

But the situation had since improved, starting with an email-based initiative to exchange information between farmers and the police. This was followed by a farmers’ Neighbourhood Action Panel in the Epping Forest area.

“This approach does take time, teamwork and tenacity,” said Mrs Padfield, who leads on rural crime for the NFU in the county. “I am confident it can be replicated in other areas and I know it will make a real difference in the fight against rural crime.”

Every meeting of the NAP starts with an open forum for farmers, which sets priorities of areas for the police to concentrate on between meetings. Farmers also provide land for the training of specialist police units.

“Confidence and communications have improved, our crime rates have decreased and between us we have a good working relationship and a greater understanding of the issues facing us.”

The conference was first ever rural crime seminar. The aim aimed to provide the police with a better understanding of the way rural crime affects farmers and countryside communities.

PICTURE: A better relationship between farmers and police should be replicated elsewhere, believes Rosemary Padfield.

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