My team and I went to Bottesford, where I was married and lived for a while, to deliver our leaflet on improving Rural Policing in Leicestershire and Rutland. While there I chatted with some locals and it brought back to me the way that residents here feel so isolated. It is a long way to the council offices in Melton, and even further to the Police HQ south of Leicester. That set me thinking about how closer liaison between the police and local groups can help to build positive community policing.
I've been impressed by the work of parish councils across our two counties and believe that they can be a big help to the police. Parish councillors know their local area like nobody else does, and can help with highlighting issues or concerns to the police who inevitably range over a wider area.
I'm also a big fan of neighbourhood watch schemes, but I recognise that these need proper support from the police if they are to function to the best of their potential. That is especially true in rural areas.
A place like Bottesford needs to see a wider strategy to deal with Rural Crime. I want to see more police in our rural areas. I want to see high visibility policing in our rural areas. And I want our police to communicate frequently with the law abiding public. I think we should have:
- A Rural Crime Co-Ordinator who will bring together all the agencies who can help prevent crime in rural areas, and tackle it when it does happen;
- Rural Crime Packs available to residents and business to help them protect themselves and ease the fear of crime;
- A Rural Crimestoppers system to provide a quick, confidential channel that people can use to pass on information about crime and criminals.
- An online Rural Crime Hub a one stop shop for farmers and other rural businesses giving advice on crime prevention, how to report crime, who to call and two-way communication with police;
- Regular public meetings with the Police and Crime Commissioner and police officers;
- Effective support for Rural Neighbourhood Watch Schemes;
- A wide-ranging and properly supported Volunteers on Horseback scheme;
- Support for new legislation to make trespass a criminal offence.
Those are my ideas on what we can do to tackle crime in rural areas, but I'm always looking for the views of people who live in our countryside.
Please remember to take my Rural Crime Survey, which you can find here: https://www.rupertmatthews.org.uk/campaigns/rural-policing-campaign