Rural communities ‘living in fear of crime’ says survey

Norfolk police on quad bikes used in fighting rural crime. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norfolk police on quad bikes used in fighting rural crime. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Rural communities are 'living in fear of crime', unhappy with the police and feeling isolated and vulnerable, according to a survey.

The 2018 National Rural Crime Survey says 69pc of farmers and rural business owners surveyed had been a victim of crime during the past 12 months, with 60pc saying they were fairly or very worried about becoming a victim of crime in the future.

Fly-tipping dominated the list of concerns, with 57pc seeing evidence of the crime in their communities, followed by speeding, seen by 32pc in the last 12 months.

While most respondents knew councils are responsible for fly-tipping, there was a clear view that not enough is being done and that councils can no longer cope given their financial constraints, the report found.

Crime, and the fear of crime, is leading to emotional strain and a loss of confidence, particularly among young people, families and farmers, the study found. A third of rural people believed crime has a moderate or great impact on their lives.

The survey also found the perception of policing in rural communities is poor, and much worse than in urban areas, with only 27pc of respondents saying their local police are doing a good job – 11pc lower than in the previous survey in 2015.

National Rural Crime Network chair Julia Mulligan said: 'These results are stark and worrying. Crime is up. Anger is up. Frustration is up. Trust is down.

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'Those rating the police as good is down. With 10.3m people living in rural areas, these are trends we can no longer ignore.'

A total of 20,000 people responded to the survey but the pattern was uneven, with North Yorkshire contributing by far the most responses (2,514), compared to just 106 responses from Norfolk, 168 from Suffolk and 322 from Cambridgeshire.

Ben Underwood, East Anglia's regional director of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), said: 'The results of the latest national crime survey are worrying but confirm the hard reality of how people who live and work in the countryside view rural crime.

'The findings chime with what we are regularly told by our members across the eastern region who speak of feeling isolated and that police responses to their calls and concerns are often not taken seriously enough.

'We meet regularly with police forces across the East of England and whilst understanding that police budgets are tight – we will continue to push for a level of investment and resource in rural policing that better reflects the seriousness of the criminal activity that takes place in the countryside.'

The survey was commissioned by the National Rural Crime Network which is made up of 30 police and crime commissioners from across the country, supported by a range of other rural community bodies.

The network's recommendations based on the survey include for chief constables to change the policing of rural communities, with more focus on farmers and specific rural businesses.