Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway joined officers to launch the county’s new Rural Crime Unit in a country crime conference which is a first for the county.
The Conference announced the creation of the Rural Crime Unit, overseen by Supt. Greg Horsford and led by Insp. Tracey Day. The unit will have a Sergeant and 4 dedicated Police Constables and have additional backing from 10 Police and Community Support Officers.
“The really important thing is that those who come to work on the Rural Crime Unit have a genuine interest in, and knowledge of, the countryside,” said Commissioner Holloway. “For example, Insp. Day is a very keen horsewoman and knows a lot of the farmers and hay, straw and feed suppliers in North Bedfordshire. She has in-depth knowledge of matters such as when hunting is and is not illegal and the law surrounding hunt saboteurs. This means that the Inspector and her team can make a real impact,” said Commissioner Holloway.
She added: “My Police and Crime Plan called for a fair deal on policing whether you live in the town or the country and the new Rural Crime Unit will help to deliver just that, making a real difference within our existing budget.”
Insp. Day explained that she has developed a definition of rural crime for the Force and that such crimes happen because of remote locations in the countryside or the nature of the business at the premises and include the theft of red diesel, horse tack and equipment and agricultural plant. She explained that national requirements for the recording of crime meant that, previously, such issues had not been distinguished as official “crimes” by the Force and that she was arranging accurate recording of such events moving forward.
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner ensured that everyone attending from parish councils, the National Farmers Union, the Countryside Landowners Association and rural town councils, was supplied with a named police contact for every parish together with full contact details by phone and online.
Jim McKeane of the National Farmers Union thanked the Commissioner and police team on behalf of farmers and those who live in rural Bedfordshire for the positive action being taken to protect the country population and businesses.
The 142 parish councils had been asked to supply details of the three top priorities in terms of crime and policing in their area, which were reported back as being speeding, visible policing and anti-social behaviour.
John Loughlin of the Force’s Traffic Management Unit explained why traffic calming measures such as speed humps are the preferred option to help cut speeding in the countryside. “The fact is that traffic calming measures are in place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whereas a police officer will only be enforcing speeding at a particular place for a limited time,” he said.
Supt. Greg Horsford, explained the Force’s new policy on illegal traveller encampments, which has been constructed with the three unitary local authorities across the county, Bedford and Luton Borough Councils and Central Bedfordshire Council. The audience welcomed the announcement that the police intend to act from now on, at an early stage, to move on such encampments when they occupy recreational sites and open spaces intended for leisure and deprive locals of their use.
Given the seasonal workers involved in agriculture and those working in rural factories, a presentation to alert the audience to the crime of Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery was given by Justine Currell of Unseen UK, the national helpline to tackle the subject, based in Biggleswade. The Unseen UK helpline is 08000 121 700.