“Stark and worrying” is how Julia Mulligan described the 2018 national rural crime survey. She chairs the National Rural Crime Network and is police and crime commissioner for North Yorkshire. Crime is up, said Ms Mulligan. Anger is up. Frustration is up. Trust is down. Those rating the police as good is down. “With 10.3 million people living in rural areas, these are trends we can no longer ignore.”
Three years on from the first survey, the results – from more than 20,000 people – are worth reporting in some detail. They show:
- the perception of policing in rural communities is poor, and much worse than in urban areas. Only 27% of respondents say their local police are doing a good job – 11% lower than when the same question was asked in 2015 and lower than the national figure from the crime survey of England and Wales which finds 62% rate the police in their area as good or excellent;
- some of the most common concerns, such as fly tipping and speeding, are not solely policing matters. Fifty seven per cent of respondents said they had seen evidence of fly tipping in the past year, topping the list of offences, with speeding second at 32%;
- crime, and the fear of crime, is leading to emotional strain and a loss of confidence, particularly among young people, families and farmers. The survey shows they are most affected and feeling most vulnerable. A third of rural people think that crime has a moderate or great impact on their lives;
- farmers and rural businesses are living with, and in fear of, crime. Sixty nine per cent of farmers and rural business owners have been a victim of crime over the past 12 months with 60% saying they are fairly or very worried about becoming a victim of crime in the future;
- communities think crime is a big problem, but many offences go unreported. Compared to 2015, the number of crimes going unreported to the police is up by a third for residents and two thirds by businesses in rural communities – mainly because they do not feel the police and criminal justice system understand the issues or do anything about them;
- the financial strain of crime is significant. The average financial impact of crime on rural business owners is £4,800, 13% up on 2015; and
- rural communities are not understood, and services do not match need. Further work needs to be done to assess rural community safety and service provisions policy across the board.
The National Rural Crime Network produced ten recommendations as a result of the survey, ranging from chief constables changing the policing of rural areas to making the reporting of rural crimes easier. But there are areas where rural policing does work and crime has been reduced. South East Farmer reported one of these recently in which the Kent Downs area of outstanding natural beauty collaborated with the police, farmers and others to prevent illegal and inappropriate access. We know, for example, that police numbers are down and fly tipping is up. Surely it’s time to look at what works in more detail rather than repeating the familiar statistics.