Rural crime rates drop in Norfolk
Investments in technology and proactive capabilities have helped Norfolk Police tackle rural crime, with the number of reported rural crimes down, compared with national figures.
And Norfolk is bucking the national trend.
National levels of rural crime are at their highest for eight years, in contrast to Norfolk, which has seen reported rural crime figures drop by 7.1% since 2018, according to insurer NFU Mutual’s 2020 Rural Crime Report published on Tuesday (4 August).
Thieves are targeting the countryside, with organised criminal gangs identifying businesses with valuable farm equipment and livestock. Equipment stolen commonly includes expensive all-terrain vehicles, including quad bikes and Land Rover Defenders, and hi-tech computer systems for tractors and combines.
Norfolk Police’s rural team works closely with the county’s farming community and Farmwatch groups to gather intelligence about thefts and suspicious activity. Information is shared among farmers across social media platforms to provide quick alerts when crimes take place.
Investment in our proactive capabilities together with well-established links with farmers and gamekeepers means we can utilise Automatic Number Plate (ANPR) Recognition systems to keep track of any vehicles involved in rural crime.
Norfolk Police is also working closely with manufacturers, the NaVCIS agricultural machinery theft co-ordination unit, and NFU Mutual to tackle the networks behind this type of crime.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey explains: “The current drop in rural crime rates in Norfolk is very encouraging, and testament to the dedication of our rural crime team, working with our communities and partners.
“We identified a rise in theft of farm equipment and machinery back in June 2018, and responded by launching Operation Kingbird, which was aimed at disrupting an organised criminal group targeting farms in the Breckland area. Our decision to increase patrols and targeted police activity resulted in a number of arrests. We continue to relentlessly pursue organised criminals targeting rural locations.
“Delivering against the Police and Crime Plan, our Rural Crime Strategy acknowledges the unique challenges faced, the impact crimes can have, and the need for rural communities to have a police service that is responsive, innovative and vested in providing a quality service to all.
“We continue to commit resources – our engagement officers and local officers – to focus on crime prevention, intelligence, enforcement and reassurance – on targeting rural crime. In addition, our ongoing investment in technology, in thermal imaging devices and drones, helps to tackle those crimes that impact rural communities.
“This is all underpinned by a firm commitment to work with partners and our rural communities, allowing us to share information, identify gaps, problem-solve and ultimately provide a better service.”
Alongside the work of the police, farmers can take steps to secure and tag their own equipment. Something as simple as painting your postcode onto tools and machines can help in the identification of criminal activity, and the recovery of equipment. We would encourage residents to continue to report suspicious activity, as well as storing valuables securely. If you have to leave it – lock it, and light it (with a security light for example), to discourage criminal activity.
Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Lorne Green, said: “During my time as Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner I have remained committed to supporting rural communities by listening to and responding to the needs of people in the countryside.
“Preventing and tackling rural crime has been and remains a central plank of my Police and Crime Plan.
“There are some crime types which are more prevalent in rural areas and bring unique challenges for policing – farm and agricultural crime, for example, or hunting and game sports – but for many rural residents their concerns are not that different from those of residents anywhere else in the county.
“Through the introduction of drones, body-worn cameras and investment in automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), I have ensured our officers have been given the right technology they need to fight the crime types affecting Norfolk today in rural areas and beyond.
“I welcome the findings of the NFU report, which on the whole appear positive for Norfolk, however it is important we do not become complacent.
“While these statistics show a downward trend, I appreciate that they will be of little comfort to those who are victim of rural crime.
“We must continue to work with local communities and partners to offer help and support and address any police and crime concerns.
“I will be ensuring I have an opportunity to raise these matters further which the Chief Constable at my next Police Accountability Forum meeting next month.”