Rural crime is an important issue for Sussex Police due to the large geographic areas across the county that are defined as 'rural', but rural crime is known to be under-reported.
Rural crime can be perpetrated by opportunists or organised groups of criminals who travel the countryside specifically targeting rural locations.
Rural crime is estimated by NFU Mutual to have cost £37.8m for the 2014-2015 period; this figure only takes into account agricultural crimes. The National Rural Crime Survey undertaken in 2015 by the National Rural Crime Network has estimated that the cost of rural crime to the rural economy could be as high as £800m. Rural crime can have the effect of increased insurance premiums, higher food prices and damage the infrastructure of rural communities.
What is Rural Crime?
Following consultation and review across other force areas and the National Wildlife Crime Unit a small working group has been created to progress this. They have provisionally agreed a shared working definition of rural crime in Sussex, as any crime of an agricultural, equine, wildlife or heritage nature.
- Agricultural - working farms, farm machinery, farm buildings, small holdings, offences against livestock and crimes at isolated rural buildings.
- Equine - working stables, tack thefts, equestrian centres.
- Wildlife - illegal hare coursing, poaching, interference with protected species. For more details on wildlife crime. We also deal with Environmental Crime - this includes illegal waste dumping, fly tipping, polluting water courses and pollution of the land. Sussex Police also assist the Environment Agency in the investigation of these crimes. Our Wildlife Crime page holds further information.
- Heritage - lead theft from churches, ancient monuments, illegal metal detecting 'any offence which harms the value of England's heritage assets and their settings to this and future generations'.
Our Rural Crime Prevention page contains useful advice.
Sussex Police will be working with partners and agencies to successfully tackle rural crime in Sussex:
Since the launch in 2015, Equine Rangers have reported anti-social driving to Op Crackdown and incidents of flytipping to the Council. The Rangers themselves have had an excellent reception with local people stopping in the street to ask about what they are doing and the Equine Rangers being able to engage and offer crime prevention advice and rural community reassurance. They are a great link between the police and local communities. The Rangers are really enjoying being Community Volunteers, and value has been restored in horses and riders.
West Sussex runs Angling Trust / Voluntary Bailiff Scheme patrols with the Environment Agency on Horsham District. These have focussed on the lakes and rivers in the area and have resulted in a number of fishing licence checks and the submission of local crime based intelligence. Further days are planned.
The plan is to bring all the rural watches under the banner of Countrywatch. We will tell you more about that in the coming months, make sure you are signed up to Neighbourhood Watch to get the details.