Who is most affected by rural crime?
I bet you wouldn’t answer farmers and young families. Or, perhaps you would, if you are one of those. I’d hazard a guess that most people involved in the police, local government or law enforcement worlds – including PCCs – would name the young, the old or the sick.
What’s interesting about the findings of the recent National Rural Crime Network survey is that they challenge our assumptions.
Crime appears to be significantly under reported in rural areas. Over a quarter of people did not report the last crime of which they were a victim. People in rural areas are more worried, not less, about crime than the national average.
Rural businesses report an average loss of £4000 from crimes that affect them, but only 32% claimed on insurance. The implied loss from rural crime is £800m, far higher than any figure previously quoted. Confidence in the police is much lower in this survey than reported elsewhere.
This is only one survey. Others tell a less dramatic story. NFU Mutual put the cost of rural theft at £37.8 million, down 15% on 2014. But it’s an important reminder that the real world is not always how the professionals and the policy wonks see it. We can all become swept away in groupthink.
This gives another reason why I think democratic accountability is so important. PCCs are up for election again next year – on May 5th next year. That will be a chance for the public to remind us what they want, not what we think they want. I’m looking forward to the debate.
What I take from the survey is that we cannot rest. Rural crime, like any crime, ruins lives and can destroy businesses. I want to make sure we continue to prioritise frontline policing, putting money where it works best. I want us to listen to victims so we can deliver better for them – and that means changing where they tell us to.
Across Carmarthenshire, Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, we have more officers on our streets for more of the time, than when I was elected. We’ve saved money, reduced household bills and increased support for victims. I want to continue that.
One thing didn’t come as a surprise in this survey. Strong communities are an important shield against the effects of crime. That’s where we must keep investing – in the relationship between the public and the police.