Crime has always been a key issue throughout the countryside but has risen considerably further up the agenda of rural concerns over the last few years. Key issues gathered from surveys include anti-social behaviour, rural crime and policing issues - second only to the National Health Service.
The extent of crime in rural areas in only part of the problem. For many people, whether they have fallen victim to crime or not, the simple fear of crime can have a detrimental effect on their quality of life. 48% of rural businesses feel that crime has a moderate or great impact on their lives, with 30% of rural residents feeling the same. It has been suggested that anticipation of crime has the potential to cause greater harm than the actual experience of crime than the actual experience of crime itself, due to the effect of long-term stress and other mental health considerations. This is only exacerbated by rural isolation. Rural communities are often without reliable mobile signal or internet and an absence of any visible police presence.
Crime is also underreported in rural areas with more than one in four not reporting the last crime they were a victim of because they either felt it was a waste of time or that the police would not be able to do anything. This is further supported by low satisfaction rates of police performance in rural areas, with only 27% of the rural public perceiving that the police do a 'goog' job. The crimes which are perceived to go untackled in rural areas included speed and dangerous driving and fly-tipping. The implication of these facts is that we have a rural population simply putting up with the crime they experience and making do as best they can. Good rural policing is about far more than numbers of police officers on the ground. If we truly want to tackle rural crime, then we must form effective partnerships between the police, rural communities and other authorities.
Fly-tipping has become a major problem in the UK, and the Countryside Alliance has long campaigned on the problem of fly-tipping in the countryside. It is not a victimless crime and government figures only tell part of the story as official figures on the number of incidents on private land and the associated clear up costs are patchy. Evidence suggests that private land owners spend upwards of £47 million a year clearing up fly-tipped waste. However, this figure is widely accepted to be on the low side. Residents and businesses in the countryside pay as much, and often more, per head of population for policing and deserve equal treatment to their urban counterparts. Rural crime, including fly-tipping, must be taken seriously by the police and local authorities.