Backing rural communities in the fight against crime

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.

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.

Making illegal incursions a criminal offence

I wholly support the proposal announced by our Home Secretary, Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, to extend police powers to cover illegal incursions and make it a criminal matter, rather than just civil. This follows her predecessor’s consultation earlier this year.

As a Police & Crime Commissioner I set the policing pritorities for my county in my Police & Crime plan, I set the Council Tax Precept and Kent Police’s budget and, most importantly, I hold the Chief Constable to account for the performance of Kent Police. We choose the Chief Constables, who serve our local communities.

I travel all over my county of Kent speaking to residents and know too well the deep frustrations our local communities have with the existing laws which are too weak and slow to proffer true protection against illegal incursions.

It is local taxpayers who are left with the bill for enforcing the existing civil legislations and, too often, expensive clean ups.

I have lobbied Government to criminalise illegal incursions and so am delighted with this annoucement to change the law.

This change will give our local police officers the powers they need to protect our communities.

I will hold our Chief Constable to account on using these laws if they come in and will make sure Kent Police has the resources it needs.

Since my election as Kent’s Police & Crime Commissioner in 2016 I have worked hard to drive savings, find efficiencies and boost frontline numbers. By the end of this financial year I will have delivered and extra 450 officers since 2016.

This work has put Kent Police in the best position to benefit from the 20,000 officer uplift pledged by this Government. From a Police Commissioner who has delivered more extra officers than any other PCC in the country last year I can tell you that Boris is right, police officer numbers do matter.

This latest announcement is yet another feather in the cap of a true law and order Government that will side with the law abiding majority.