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Chairman of Rural Crime Partnership champions Thames Valley Police

David Orpwood, Chairman of the Thames Valley Police Rural Crime Partnership, responds to the Countryside Alliance's Police and Crime Commissioner manifesto.

The Countryside Alliance has published its annual rural crime survey which makes grim reading for some police forces but, as someone with a vested interest in this matter as the chairman of the Thames Valley Police’s (TVP) Rural Crime Partnership, and yes I’m a civilian not a police officer, I wanted to share with you what we have been doing.

The survey shows that after 12 years of elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) they appear to be no closer to tackling rural crime, but this is certainly not correct in TVP. In TVP we have reduced hare coursing by 60%, and recovered over £5 million worth of stolen goods all in the first two years of operating a dedicated rural crime team of just one inspector, two sergeants and 10 police constables, and remember TVP covers THREE counties. The rural crime team came about following a small delegation of farmers, landowners and gamekeepers meeting with the then PCC Anthony Stansfeld, his deputy Matthew Barber (the now PCC of TVP) and the Chief Constable (CC), John Campbell. The PCC and CC have agreed to increase the team by a further 10 PCs. A group of forces, TVP, Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire have joined together in a group called SEPARC working together to tackle rural crime. This initiative is driven by their respective PCCs. A united ‘attack’ on rural crime and the perpetrators of rural crime can only be healthy and good for the rural community, a move I fully support.  Each force must respond to its most damaging crime while being fully aware of other issues, which I believe the PCCs and CC I have dealings with are well aware they are ‘being watched’ and supportive in their dealings with rural crime.  The TVP PCC attends most, if not all, rural crime meetings within the force and others like rural parish councils to meet their demands for rural policing.

Finally, the Countryside Alliance are quite correct in their report that people MUST report rural crime ASAP, if in progress 999, if historic 101 or the forces website has a reporting facility, I know it’s a fag, but the police cannot help if they don’t know there is a problem. I’d go further to emphasise that by reporting crime in your patch you build a picture so police can identify where hot spots are. One further aid to identifying crime is WhatsApp, which we use a lot in TVP, not to inform the police but to keep each other in the loop as to what’s going on. But remember, WhatsApp is NOT reporting to police, still ring 999.

One last point, the PCC’s elections are on 2 May, your chance to influence YOUR police force. I implore you to question your prospective PCCs, find out if they have an interest in rural crime and policing and ‘educate’ them. When your new PCC is installed after the election, engage him or her and make them take rural crime and policing seriously - I have. It’s your chance to ‘make a difference’.

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