Rural crime costs Norfolk £910,000 in a year
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016
There must be no let up in the fight to eradicate rural crime despite encouraging signs the cost to vulnerable, remote communities in Norfolk is reducing, the county's police commissioner has said.
Figures released today by NFU Mutual show the cost of rural crime in the county fell by 8pc between 2015 and 2016, higher than the national average of 4.3pc.
Norfolk bucked the regional trend, with the cost of rural crime rising by 3.7pc in the east of England as a whole and 6pc in neighbouring Suffolk.
However rural crime still cost Norfolk £910,000 last year, with Joanna Johnson, NFU Mutual agent in Norfolk, saying: 'Although the figures for rural crime in Norfolk are down, countryside criminals continue to become more brazen.'
MORE: Farmers fear hare coursers set to descend on Norfolk and Cambridgeshire fields after harvestAnd Norfolk police and crime commissioner (PCC) Lorne Green said the personal and emotional price 'sometimes can be greater than the actual material loss'.
He explained: 'An attack on a remote, rural business is not just an attack on a business. It's an attack on a way of life.
'I welcome any improvement in the figures but we must not rest on our laurels. This is a sustained campaign that will continue as long as I am PCC.'
He said being a victim of rural crime, whether it is a burglary of a farm building or theft of lead from a church roof, 'increases their sense of unease, fear and anxiety'.
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He has increased police resources to tackle the issue, with 23 officers now dedicated to rural crime compared with six when he took office in May last year.
There are also more officers on horseback and a new all-terrain vehicle launched in Hunstanton earlier this year, which can travel along beaches and woodland areas more quickly and easily.
Norfolk Police has also bought drones to help in the fight against crime.
MORE: Police to start using drones in fight against crime in NorfolkMORE: New all-terrain vehicle to help Norfolk police reach emergencies on beaches and rural areasBut he also believes a significant part of the battle is better communication with rural communities and potential victims, not just to provide reassurance but gather intelligence.
NFU Mutual's Rural Crime Report, where the cost figures have been published, reveals that while being 'staked out' is the biggest worry for countryside people, it is closely followed closely by longer police response times in rural areas.
'We rely heavily on the rural community,' Mr Green said.
'When I took office, there was a sense that rural crime wasn't worth reporting.
'I'd like to think there's more confidence now to come forward and report rural crime. The rural community is responding more
'We can't do anything if we don't know what's going on. That's why it's really important to have this two-way exchange – we are sensitive to the effect on victims.'
Key to the success, he believes, is a newsletter from Operation Randall – the name of the police effort to fight rural crime – which today has 2,000 subscribers compared with just 70 in May last year.
That newsletter gives people advice on how to prevent crime and important information on suspicious activities to watch out for.
Mr Green also holds roadshows where the public can raise issues.
The next roadshow is due to take place in South Norfolk on September 19, although a venue is still to be confirmed.
Mrs Johnson added: 'Farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment.
'Farmers are being forced to consider the increased risk of theft of tractors, quad bikes and tools, and ways in which farm security can be improved. They are using tracking devices on tractors, video and infra-red surveillance in their farm yards.
'Our advice to people living and working in the countryside is to regularly evaluate your current security measures making improvements where necessary, remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the local police and local farm watch schemes.'
For more information about rural crime, visit www.norfolk.police.uk/advice/rural-crime