Small things matter. That is the message from the research we published this week, called Rural Connect. It looked at how the police can most effectively cut crime in rural areas.
Leading academics from Aberystwyth and Cardiff universities worked with officers from Dyfed Powys to research perceptions from the public and officers. They reviewed literature on rural policing from elsewhere in the world. The work was sponsored by the College of Policing and forms an important part of research into rural policing.
Rural Connect’s findings are an important reminder of some old lessons. People in rural areas want officers they know and who know them. Relationships require time and effort to build. They turn on small things – knowing someone, saying hello in the street, having time to talk.
Dyfed Powys officers are generally very good at local relationships. I often drop by shops and ask if they know their PCSOs. A pleasing number do. One even noted that PCSOs have something to teach regular PCs about good communication.
But we have more to do. My job is to make sure that frontline officers have what they need to tackle crime. I’m going to look closely at the findings to see what we can take forward.
We’ve cut targets, increased officer numbers and invested in IT to free up time. Senior officers are looking hard at daily work loads to improve how we use our limited resources.
We are already planning a major recruitment drive for Special Constables. I’m going to explore bicycles, motorbikes or mopeds for rural officers. We will shortly launch improved watch schemes – farm watch, neighbourhood watch, horse watch, for example – across Dyfed Powys.
I want to encourage people to speak to their police too. Small courtesies are the currency of relationships. Saying hello builds trust. It costs nothing and it opens doors.
I want the police to walk and greet with confidence, but the public can help too – by doing the same.
You can read the reports and my response to them here.
My interview with BBC Radio Wales on Thursday morning is here (at 42 min).