A report appeared over the weekend, showing that a quarter of crime victims living in rural communities were not reporting crime because they had little faith in the Police solving them and many believed that Forces didn’t make rural crime a high enough priority.

This is obviously disappointing to hear and I will take the findings of this survey very seriously indeed. I have undertaken to listen to the needs of rural communities during my term of office.

One of the guiding principles of my Police and Crime Plan is that crime is important no matter where it takes place – whether in an urban, rural or coastal community. My expectation is that no matter where you are in Kent, you should receive the same first-class service.

The Chief Constable is held to account on this both publicly at my Performance and Delivery Board meetings and my regular briefings from him. I will raise this report with him.

And as I regularly ask – I can confirm that every crime in Kent is investigated for lines of enquiry, contrary to many stories you will hear about algorithms and reports being filed at source. Our operational teams are supported by the Investigation Management Unit follows up thousands of cases for such investigative opportunities.

However, I’m pleased to report that progress has been made in a number of areas, in partnership with Kent Police and others.

* Increasing the size of the rural policing team: The rural taskforce has doubled in size thanks to the hiring of more Officers. It’s now one of the biggest teams of its type in the country.
* Crime prevention initiatives: I’ve worked with the team and others like Victim Support to fund Smart Water programmes to keep businesses’ property safe. I’ve also funded Crime Prevention PCSOs to work across our county to problem solve.
* Making it easier to report crime: After listening to concerns about the 101 service, average waiting times have dropped from from nearly five minutes to less than 90 seconds. Online reporting has been brought in and I continue to support the Country Eye app.
* Regular engagement: I have toured rural communities to meet residents and businesses, as well as urban and coastal areas; I have regular meetings with representative groups too.
* Fixed firearms licensing problems: When I was elected, the waits were far too long; with investment in the team they’ve gone down from a year to less than two months pre-lockdown.
* Action against illegal incursions: I brought together councils and the police to improve the speed with which illegal incursions are dealt with and urged the use of police powers. I’ve lobbied the Government to criminalise this act.
* Co-ordinated action against fly-tipping: Kent Police works with local authorities on regular days of action to catch and punish those responsible. More of these campaign days are taking place.

Other Kent Police activity:

* The regular Rural Matters magazine is published exclusively to highlight the work and contact details of the team

* The rural taskforce also produce an operational briefing note regularly for rural communities with local news and information
* The Crime – Rural Advisory Group meets with senior Officers to discuss matters with rural communities and representatives
* Rural Officers give training to colleagues in other teams on rural matters
* Kent Police retains a dedicated Gypsy Liaison Team of Officers
* Engaging with the Farming community via WhatsApp
* The dedicated @kentpolicerural Twitter feed continues to publish information on their activities and campaigns

* Setting up the Kent Rural Specials Team

There is more progress to be made. In Kent, Police numbers are higher than they have ever been and Crime is starting to fall. I will continue to engage with rural communities to understand and listen to their concerns so that I can hold the Chief Constable to account and help make them feel safer.

Matthew with part of the Rural Task Force at a meeting with Farmers
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