Blog: Precept investment in rural policing

Suffolk is a large rural county with stunning landscapes and particularly attractive towns and villages. It’s a super place in which to live and work and there’s the added benefit of living in an area with low crime levels. Whilst there are pockets of deprivation which present their own policing challenges, I would much rather be the Police and Crime Commissioner here than in a large urban metropolis.

For me, it’s important the police force is representative of the people and businesses it protects and this includes understanding the rural way of life. Good and effective policing is dependent on many factors, but I believe good engagement and understanding your communities is fundamental. As forty per cent of Suffolk’s population is officially classified as rural (compared to the national average of less than twenty per cent) how policing is delivered in the countryside is very important.

It goes without saying that the health of the rural economy is fundamental to Suffolk’s wellbeing which is why tackling and preventing crime in rural areas is vital. Equally, those who live in the countryside pay taxes just like anyone else and rightly expect to receive a policing service on a par with urban compatriots.

Recorded levels of rural crime in Suffolk remain low, but have risen to over five hundred in the last year – just over one per cent of the total recorded crimes countywide. We need to remember this data refers to specific crimes such as hare coursing, poaching and livestock rustling that couldn’t happen in our towns. That said, there are many other crimes occurring in rural areas such as burglary, domestic abuse or online offences which can occur anywhere.

One of the benefits I promised would be delivered from this year’s council tax rise was continued investment in the rural crime team; this included an additional rural crime officer (now in post) plus expansion of drone technology. This additional drone capability is particularly helpful for monitoring hunt meetings compliance (hunters and protestors) and for catching illegal hare coursers. Suffolk Constabulary now has five dedicated rural crime officers who have a comprehensive understanding of rural Suffolk. By the end of this year each of the nine local policing area will be equipped with a 4×4 vehicle marked ‘Rural Patrol’; these are intended to increase visibility and act as a deterrent to offenders.

The rural crime team advises on crime prevention and keeps officers across the county updated on the latest rural policing developments. Tackling rural crime is not the sole preserve of the dedicated rural officers – all Suffolk officers share responsibility for rural policing.

The Constabulary receives considerable assistance from the business community and local people, for which I’m really grateful. The volunteers on horseback initiative has 28 members and they are an important source of information and intelligence for the force. There is a substantial difference to what can be observed on horseback in comparison to a car or on foot! For several years we have also had dedicated rural Special Constables, who are also volunteers, working with side-by-side with regular officers, with the same powers.

The insurance industry continues to pay for a full-time police officer at Felixstowe Port. This crucial role is part of the National Vehicle Crime and Intelligence Service and pursues the criminal gangs who steal high-value plant and machinery to order for export. Much if this trade is conducted via Felixstowe, Suffolk’s largest port.

In spite of all this work I completely understand it’s never enough, but the force’s rural team is making very good progress and good rural policing will always remain as one of my top priorities as your PCC.

The government’s uplift programme, which promises will deliver 162 additional police officers in Suffolk during the next three years, will make a big difference to policing the whole county, including the rural areas.

Lastly, if you’d like to help – why not join us as a volunteer or a new recruit? Your county needs you!

To enquire about volunteering, staff employment or police officer recruitment details can be found on the Constabulary website:

Published in the Bury Free Press September 2020