NEW TEAM TO FIGHT RURAL CRIME ACROSS SUSSEX

Sussex Police has launched a new rural crime team, whose overall aim is to crack down on unlawful behaviour in isolated communities.

This team, launched on Monday (June 1), has been made possible with the precept increase, as acquired by Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne at the start of this financial year. The new funding will allow for more enforcement and greater local policing presence, part of which is rural crime.

The team will have a specialist focus on agricultural, equine, wildlife and heritage issues and it has been brought together to serve the rural community, to increase confidence and encourage reporting through preventing crime and carrying out more proactive investigations.

Made up of two sergeants, eight constables and six police community support officers (PCSOs), the team will be operating out of bases at Midhurst and Heathfield.

The impact of rural crime has become more apparent in recent years and this is reflected with the implementation of the national Rural Affairs Strategy in 2018, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

Sussex Police’s own Rural Crime Strategy aims to make rural communities feel safer by building long-lasting partnerships, responding to the community’s needs and provide an effective policing service. In turn, this work aims to increase confidence in the police in our more isolated areas.

With 62% of Sussex’s area dedicated to farming and a significant proportion being in the South Downs National Park, Sussex is defined as ‘significantly rural’ by DEFRA (2011).

Recently, Sussex Police arrested three men near High Hurstwood, Wealden, on suspicion of burglary and going equipped for burglary. This is just one example of the force’s approach to disrupting rural crime in the county.

Chief Inspector Steve Biglands, Sussex Police’s Rural Crime lead, said: “We are keenly aware of the significant impact that these types of crimes have on our remote communities, and the implementation of this new team is designed to provide a direct link between those more isolated and the police. We want to encourage reporting of rural crimes, because with this insight, we are able to deploy the team to where they are most needed in order to protect the most vulnerable. We have a substantial number of rural residents and businesses in Sussex and they deserve our protection.”

Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner said: “It is so important to have a dedicated team for this area of policing, which quite often can go unnoticed. We want to reassure the residents of Sussex that we are here to disrupt rural crime, to catch those who think they can get away with it and to ensure our more isolated communities feel safe in their own homes.

“There have been cases recently of animal thefts, quad bike thefts and numerous other countryside offences. We understand how destructive these are to people’s livelihoods, and how damaging they can be emotionally to the victim. We want perpetrators of these crimes to know we are here to catch them: do not consider committing the crime because we will bring you to justice.

“Working closely with partners, we can draw on expertise and resources from all over the county; together, we can provide the service needed to prevent rural crime.”

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “Through my ongoing consultations with local residents and organisations, including the National Farmers’ Union, I know that our rural and village communities in Sussex can sometimes feel ‘abandoned’ and ‘forgotten about’.

“Rural crime is particularly worrying and, since the Covid-19 lock down, there have been many disturbing reports of fly-tipping and expensive equipment theft. I want to reassure our rural residents that these crimes will not be ignored and are being taken extremely seriously.

“This expanded team will have the specialist knowledge, skills and training that is vital to police our rural communities, successfully investigate and prosecute crimes made against them and keep people feeling safe where they live and work.

“I know that this will be welcome news to many residents and organisations across Sussex.”