Rise in rural crime making Bedfordshire communities 'suspicious' of countryside visitors

The increase in rural crime is making farmers and communities wary of any visitors to Bedfordshire's countryside.

By John Guinn, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 8th April 2022, 10:38 am
Updated Friday, 8th April 2022, 12:03 pm
The vice-chair NFU Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire said that just reporting a crime from a rural area can be an issue
The vice-chair NFU Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire said that just reporting a crime from a rural area can be an issue

Tom Church, NFU Mutual partner agent & group secretary, told the Police and Crime Panel on Tuesday (April 5) that rural crime affects everyone, even those living in towns.

"Because it makes the people that live in these rural communities suspicious of everybody, and when we get visitors, and we have cars parked in gateways, we stop, we look and we wait," he said.

"I don’t want to chase people and harry them around and stop them enjoying the countryside, but the issues we face out there are getting worse.

Mr Church said that when his members report a crime it’s classed as a business theft and often they feel that they didn't receive the attention they felt they should.

Chief superintendent John Murphy said: "When crime is reported to us it can be really quickly classified as a vehicle crime or business crime, and therefore seen not to be particularly impactive.

"As a force we are dependent on being able to evaluate or screen out a certain percentage of crime that comes into the force to enable us to tread water and to be able to investigate those crimes that have got the most opportunity of being solved.

"But we need to be careful with how we do some of that," he said.

Freya Morgan, vice-chair NFU Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire added that just reporting a crime from a rural area can be an issue.

"You’re often on your mobile phone, and we don’t always have signal," she said.

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"If you ring 101 you’re on hold for ages, we don’t have time to stand still in one spot for a signal, so we end up ringing 999."

Ms Morgan added that there needs to be more communication from the police about reporting crime online.

Mr Church said there is a feeling of isolation amongst his members and customers

"We don’t see the police out in the countryside, I drive a lot from farm to farm, business-to-business, seeing members and customers [the police] are not out there, I want to see more of them.

"I want them to pull me over when I’m taking a quad bike on a trailer from A to B because I’ve got nothing to hide.

"Whereas if that quad bike had just been stolen out of a farmyard at home, I’d be over the moon if [the police] pulled someone over two miles down the road," he said.

Bedfordshire’s police and crime commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye said: "While it is very difficult for me to be able to say that we are going to have X amount of police officers to deploy into the rural areas.

"While we might not be able to prevent very crime, we certainly can do a lot better in how we deal with every victim of a crime when they call in and when they need support," he said.