Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, has met with members of the National Farmers’ Union to discuss rural crime in the county and launch a new anonymous reporting line dedicated to the rural community and stopping crime in the countryside.
The meeting, which was held on Monday (12 November) at Scald End Farm in Thurleigh, was attended by farmers from across Bedfordshire wishing to discuss concerns over fly tipping, theft and criminal damage to crops and buildings, as well as hare coursing.
The Commissioner was able to confirm that Bedfordshire now has the largest specialist Rural Crime Team in the whole of the seven force East of England area, from Norfolk to Kent.
“When I came into the role as PCC we didn’t have even one rural crime officer at Bedfordshire Police. But those who live in the countryside pay their taxes too and deserve a fair share of policing. They needed to have police officers who fully understand the very specific laws governing crimes which take place purely as a result of a rural setting, such as hare coursing causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to land and threats of serious violence to farmers who find themselves alone with these criminals in isolated locations, or fly-tipping or hunt-related crimes,” said Commissioner Holloway.
“I’m so pleased that the NFU have recognised the work that’s been done since then, starting with a single Rural Crime Sergeant, then a business case to prove the need for a rural team and now Op Sentinel Rural which has grown to be the largest such team in the whole of the East, working out of Dunstable police station for the south of the county and now Riseley station, at least two days a week, for those in the north,” she said.
The Commissioner asked the audience to pass on details of the new, wholly anonymous, crime reporting line set up by the NFU and Crimestoppers on the freephone line 0800 7830137 and website - www.ruralcrimereportingline.uk.
“Sometimes, because of the isolated locations where people live in the Bedfordshire countryside, they're worried about being associated with a crime report. The new Crimestoppers line is absolutely confidential and, just like the main Crimestoppers service, they couldn’t identify a caller even if they - or police - wanted to. It’s another way of encouraging people to come forward and share vital crime intelligence,” said PCC Holloway.
During the meeting, those attending heard from Bedfordshire Police’s Chief Superintendent David Boyle and Inspector Steve Callow, who both provided an update on the work of the Rural Crime Team, which has included running operations and days of action targeting illegal encampments, hare coursing and criminal damage.
Inspector Steve Callow, said: “This was an excellent initiative by the NFU to help us engage with and better understand our rural communities.
“Rural communities face specific challenges such as hare coursing, fly tipping and the isolation that comes from where they live.
“As well as the work of our rural crime team, we have also been giving education and training to our response officers to improve their understanding of rural crime.
“We want to reassure our rural communities that we are listening and working to deliver a comprehensive response in this area.”
Chief Superintendent David Boyle said: “The NFU have been an incredible support over the last years and we’re really looking forward to continuing working with them in the future. It’s was really good to have the opportunity to hear about their concerns and talk to them about some of the work the police have been doing.”
The Rural Crime Team can be contacted by email - opsentinel.rural@Bedfordshire.pnn.police.uk. There is also a WhatsApp group that is open for members of the rural community to join, for more information the team can be contacted on this same email address.
The meeting was chaired by the NFU’s regional lead, Gary Spiers, who said: “We would like to thank the Police and Crime Commissioner and Bedfordshire Police for their input at our rural crime meeting.
“Our PCC, Kathryn Holloway delivered, in her now familiar forthright fashion, her views on where more focus and resource is required amid a backdrop of increasing gang, gun and knife crime.
“Regarded as a rural force, Bedfordshire Police have a vast workload with a population approaching 700,000 and call centre dealing with a 15 percent increase in calls. The ongoing rural problems of fly tipping, hare coursing and theft predominated questions to Chief Super Intendant Boyle and Inspector Callow, with those perpetrators often being connected to more serious criminality.
“Overall this proved to be a very worthwhile meeting with a good level of input from the floor and a number of solutions being suggested as well as evidence of positive results being achieved by the Bedfordshire Police Rural Crime Team.”