Councillor Andrew Gibson, executive member for culture, recreation and countryside, said: “Hampshire is a predominantly rural county, and supporting rural communities is a priority for the county council. We wanted to work more closely with the Country Watch Team on issues relating to rural crime, and there seemed an obvious partnership between Country Watch and our Countryside Service, whose staff are frequently out and about in the countryside.
“The Countryside Service manages more than 7,400 acres and 3,000 miles of rights of way across the county. Locally-based teams have good knowledge of the areas they look after, and are in a good position to notice any changes or suspicious activity when out performing their duties.”
Around 75% of Hampshire is classified as rural, and these areas are home to 300,000 people – 21% of the county’s total population.
As part of the partnership, Countryside Service staff will receive training from the Country Watch team on signs of rural crime to look out for, to help gather intelligence and report incidents. Around 20 Countryside Service vehicles will also be badged with the Country Watch logo to help give rural policing a more visible presence.
The newly branded Countryside vehicles were launched at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Police and crime commissioner’s Rural Communities Matter Conference at Sparsholt College near Winchester.
Country Watch inspector Lou Hubble said: “We’re really excited about this partnership, which will provide additional resources and support our efforts to tackle rural crime. We look forward to working together to protect our rural communities.”
Michael Lane, police and crime commissioner, said: “A key pillar of my Police and Crime Plan is partnership. I am delighted to support this partnership of Hampshire county council and Country Watch as we work more effectively and efficiently to keep us all safer.”
For more details about Hampshire Constabulary’s Country Watch visit www.hampshire.police.uk/internet/advice-and-information/rural-crime/country-watch
Pictured: Country Watch partnership launch (from l-r) Hampshire county council ranger Michael Hardy, inspector Lou Hubble, police and crime commissioner Michael Lane and councillor Rob Humby, executive member for environment & transport.