An update from Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne OBE

On Monday I attended a Rural Crime Day of Action in north Wealden where residents in more isolated communities have previously expressed concern about burglaries, police engagement and response.

Since the setting up of the new Rural Crime Team in June, Sussex Police now have the resources to tackle this sort of issue much more effectively and these extra boots on the ground have already made a huge difference to the confidence of local residents, including farmers.

On Monday it was great to see the team in action being a visible deterrent to criminals and delivering on the promise of more proactive and preventative policing in rural parts of Sussex.

Through my ongoing consultations with residents and the National Farmers’ Union, I know that our rural and village communities have, at times, felt overlooked. Having fed back their concerns to the Chief Constable and her senior team, I’m pleased to see that Sussex Police are now actively working in partnership to tackle rural crime and taking all reports extremely seriously.

Since recently ending my year as Chair of the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners, I am delighted to have been nominated their new National Lead for Business and Retail Crime. This is an area which is of great interest to me.

I am already working closely with Sussex Police, business owners, business crime experts and my PCC colleagues to address this subject. There will also be opportunities for me to work with the Policing Minister and key officials who are very focused on tackling business crime.

Over recent weeks, I’ve convened several meetings of our Safer Sussex Business Partnership to address the concerns of local retailers - both large and small - and look at the wider picture.

I was appalled to hear that in Sussex, reported assaults on shopworkers have risen by over 30% in the last year. This issue has been further exacerbated by the COVID product shortages, strict social distancing measures and now the enforcement of wearing masks in stores.

One Southern Co-op Manager has pleaded with people to treat shopworkers with respect: “We have had staff quit because they couldn’t cope with the fear of a knife being used against them. We want to enforce the wearing of masks because it’s for customer and colleague safety, but we can’t always police this because we get so much abuse if we try to reason with people. We are just doing our jobs.”

This pandemic has shown how important our local businesses and their staff are to our communities. Intimidation, verbal abuse and violence of any kind against shopworkers cannot be tolerated.

I am also determined to identify better ways to tackle prolific offenders by managing their behaviour and preventing further harm. Business crime really matters and it is vital for the future of our local economy that we protect our high streets.