We're now part of the York & North Yorkshire Combined Authority

7 February, 2016

Rural areas to get policing boost

Blog post for Harrogate Advertiser - February 2016

It is always good to be able to report back to the public on positive, tangible changes that you have helped to shape. Back in September I wrote about the National Rural Crime Network, which I helped set up to better support rural communities. One of our most important pieces of work has been to conduct the largest ever rural policing survey.

The results were stark.  I won’t go into them in detail (they are on my website if you’d like the full report), but suffice to say satisfaction with policing was significantly lower in rural areas than urban. Fewer rural people felt the police dealt with the issues that matter to them and fear of crime was higher in rural areas than urban, and increasing.

A key aim of the Network is to further the needs of people living in villages, rural areas and small towns. I have done that, not least via the survey, and also by challenging the government on a proposed change to police funding that would have been very bad news for rural forces, including North Yorkshire. Whilst we won that battle, there remain real concerns over funding and changes to national policing that may affect us. This is why the Chief Constable and I are now sitting on national boards which hold some sway over these debates specifically so rural forces continue to have a voice.

More progress is also being made locally.  Since the survey, the Chief Constable has been closely considering what he can do to improve services in more sparsely populated areas of North Yorkshire. On Monday, we announced a new Rural Policing Strategy for North Yorkshire, and I am confident it will go a long way to helping restore confidence in the police where it has been lost.

My confidence, in no small part, is due to what we believe will be the largest ever dedicated Rural Crime Task Force. Led by an Inspector, Sergeant, and supported by a co-ordinator and a police analyst, there will be seven police officers and seven PCSOs specially tasked with enhancing the service in our rural districts, including those here in the Harrogate area.

It will be their job, working alongside Special Constables and volunteers, to be a single point of contact for rural communities; building local relationships, investigating rural crimes and providing crime prevention advice, especially to those most at risk.  The Task Force is hugely welcome, and I know it is going to be make a real difference.

And this isn’t a standalone Task Force. One of your biggest concerns has consistently been road safety – in towns and rural areas. We will be making some announcements shortly to help address this problem still further, which will mean more visible resources in local communities. Their job will be to bring down road casualties and better protect North Yorkshire’s borders from crime committed by people coming in from outside the county.  By implementing Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology in road safety vehicles, the police will also be better able to track and trace travelling criminals, who we know prey on what they see as vulnerable rural communities.

All in all, this is a very welcome step forward.  The public, rightly, have been vocal about their concerns, and can be reassured I have listened and the police have acted.  I am confident these changes will make for a tangible difference. No matter where you live, whether town or countryside, people deserve fair access to services, and policing is no different.

Lastly, and importantly, if you have seen something you think is suspicious or feel you want to report a non-urgent issue to the police, then please call them on their non-emergency number 101. The more we help the police with intelligence and information, the more they can help us.