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Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway was joined by the county’s Chief Constable, Jon Boutcher, to unveil the county’s rural policing plans at the first of her annual Parish Councillors’ Conferences. (Sat. Sept. 10 2016.)

The PCC explained that a fairer deal on policing – whether you live in the town or country – is among the top priorities of her Police and Crime Plan for Bedfordshire, which was the first to be published by any PCC of the 43 forces of England and Wales.

“Parish councils are an absolutely vital link for Bedfordshire Police to be our eyes and ears to pass on crucial information about crimes and anti-social behaviour happening in the villages and smaller towns and, also, to pass on the word to local residents of what the Force is doing and why to tackle crime. That’s why I’ve organised this first Parish Councils’ Conference and intend to hold one every year of my administration,” Commissioner Holloway told representatives at Central Bedfordshire Councll’s headquarters at Chicksands, following an invitation sent to the Clerks of 125 Parish Councils across the county.

“The top tier team from Bedfordshire Police are here to show just how seriously rural crime issues are now being taken by the Force and to pass on the information about its operations to get on top of matters from fly-tipping to illegal travellers’ encampments. The aim is also to let parishes know just what other pressures Bedfordshire Police are facing across the board on a day to day basis,” she said.

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher shared the previous night’s log of incidents attended by 17 officers revealing the challenges dealt with routinely by the Force. They included the rape of a 17-year-old girl, two robberies, the urgent search for a teenager whose family had reported that she was at risk from Child Sexual Exploitation and an attempt by a man with a record of Domestic Violence to force entry to a house to attack a woman with a knife (which is believed to have failed, at least in part, because security at the house had been strengthened by the Bedfordshire Police Partnership Trust Bobby Van scheme.) This was in addition to the need for two officers to watch a prisoner on 24/7 guard in hospital and for another to continuously monitor a prisoner who had threatened to take his life, he said.

Mr Boutcher also explained the thinking behind the appointment of Tao Chamboko, the son of a farmer and Insp.Tracey Day, a keen horsewoman who lives in a North Bedfordshire village, to the team examining country crime: “I don’t think we always had the right fit when it came to dealing with rural crime in the past and I promise you that we’re putting that right,” said Chief Constable Boutcher as he confirmed that the Force has not only appointed the Rural Crime Liaison officer to work with parishes and a network of members of the National Farmers’ Union and other Countryside organisations but tasked Insp. Day with drawing up a business case for a new Rural Crime Unit dedicated to preventing and investigating crimes in the countryside.

Parish Councillors heard further presentations on correct use of the 101 number for non life-threatening incidents and the need to support the Force in recruitment of Village Specials with full policing powers from Head of the Special Constabulary and Force Control Room, Wayne Humberstone. Insp. Hob Hoque of the Community Cohesion Team stressed that his officers want to build bridges to parish neighbourhoods as well as with urban diverse communities.

The Acting Superintendent for the North of the county, Julia Pink, explained the work being done with local authorities to try to produce a more joined-up approach to dealing with the problems caused by illegal travellers’ encampments and nuisance bikers.

Martin Darlow, CEO of the Bobby Van Scheme providers, Bedfordshire Police Partnership Trust, invited councillors to nominate vulnerable individuals, including the elderly, for a free home security survey which results in free measures such as improved locks on doors and windows if it considers them to be of benefit, as he said it has done in 22,000 Bedfordshire homes so far.

All parishes were asked to come up with three top policing priorities in their area which will be addressed at a follow-up event on December 16 at a venue to be announced.

“I hope this shows people that this commitment to an improved deal on policing of the Bedfordshire countryside is not just a flash in the pan but something that the Force and I are determined to deliver and that the Chief Constable and I stand shoulder to shoulder in that aim,” said Commissioner Holloway.