A further 8 Commissioners are considering joining the group which could bring the total to around two thirds of PCCs across the two countries.
Once established the Network will provide an online resource for police, community safety practitioners and others to interact, to share information, training development, access to case studies and link up with other mechanisms for reporting crime and/or suspicious behaviour.
Devon and Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg welcomed the creation of the network. He said: “Police officers in Devon and Cornwall are well aware of the costs of crime in rural communities. Thefts of equipment, of metal and of livestock not only stop people in rural communities from conducting their business they also create victims and one of my roles is to make sure that victims of all crime – no matter where it occurs – have a voice.
Rural crime is very often organised by gangs of criminals who do not work to county boundaries and Devon and Cornwall has an excellent track record of liaising with neighbouring forces in Dorset and Avon and Somerset to stop this cross border trade. Now we can take this a step further.”
The idea originated with the Rural Services Network, a ‘not for profit’ organisation which represents a diverse range of rural service providers in the public, private and voluntary sectors.
Rural Services Network officer, Nick Payne said: “There is a common perception that rural crime is less significant than that occurring in cities and towns. The impact of rural crime is just as serious as it is elsewhere which is becoming an increasing problem as austerity bites and as police resources are stretched thinner. There are also strong links to serious organised gangs in relation to some classifications of rural crime, for example, theft of agricultural plant and machinery as well as the availability of drugs alongside more conventional issues such as wildlife and heritage crime.”
The Commissioners convened with police officers and representatives from the Rural Services Network, Farmers Weekly Magazine, National Community Safety Network, the online crime reporting system ‘Facewatch’, the Country Land and Business Association and other rural stakeholders, to explore the concept in more detail.
“There is good collaborative work already occurring in some localities but it is widely acknowledged that sharing of best practice is patchy and urgently needs to be improved. The Network will ensure that this is effectively coordinated and sustained.” added Mr. Payne.
The network will also be developing strong links to academic research resources as well promoting successful techniques to encourage rural communities to become more self -resilient in these difficult times.
Tony Hogg said: “I am sure that rural crime will be something which is high on the agenda as police forces and PCCs look to collaborate more closely in the future. I have recently persuaded the police and crime panel to approve my decision to increase the council tax precept by 1.99% which means that frontline police numbers will remain over 3,000. This will ensure that Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer can continue to make sure our rural communities continue get the level of policing it needs to make them safe.”
A smaller working group will now refine some initial Terms of Reference and explore ways in which the ICT infrastructure that will be required for the Network to function can be funded and most efficiently established.
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