That was the question that I asked myself before I started my research! Surely it can’t be that big a problem, otherwise we would hear more about it. How wrong can you be!! Since starting my postgraduate research in October 2012, I have quickly come to realise how much of an issue rural crime is, and also how overlooked it has been, both in the research community and in policing policy.
I am pleased to say though, that it looks like there is a change a-coming in some corners. Since starting my research, I have seen a change for the better in the way that the police view rural crime, thanks in part to the Police and Crime Commissioners, who seem to look at things from a slightly different angle. But also as a result of the work of key rural stakeholders, such as the Rural Services Network, for keeping this issue in the forefront of the minds of the police and other influential rural bodies.
This increased activity has seen the numbers attending the National ACPO/Crimestoppers Rural Crime Seminar swell, and the establishment of the National Rural Crime Network, amongst other awareness raising campaigns. I am also pleased to see that a number of police forces are now establishing their own rural crime strategies, which can only be a good thing for rural communities! The more I talk to people, the more I realise that there is an urgent need for rural crime to be addressed, and for rural communities to have their say in what should be done to tackle this issue.
Despite this surge of public interest, the research community seem to be slow to catch up. Rural crime is not seen as ‘sexy’ or high priority, because urban crime affects more people and businesses, and crime is all about targets. As a result, the vast majority of academic research remains focused on the urban. Apart from a small (but slowly growing) community of researchers shouting about the issues of rural crime, little research exists in comparison to urban crime. I decided very quickly that, regardless of lower numbers, rural crime must be dealt with on an equal playing field to urban crime, and that I wanted to be a part of that!
Kreseda Smith, Postgraduate Researcher at Harper Adams University
Although there is no agreed definition of rural crime, I feel that rural residents, whether they live in a large village or a remote farm tens of miles from their nearest neighbour, should be offered the same service as those people who live in the towns and cities. I was pleased to hear that this sentiment was shared by those speaking at the Rural Crime Seminar last week (5th March 2014). Whilst I understand that, with the best will in the world, visible patrols in rural areas are never going to match the levels seen in urban areas, there are other methods that can be adopted in rural communities to make property more secure and houses, farms, and businesses less attractive to the criminals who would otherwise see these locations as ‘easy pickings’.
A lot of these methods start with community participation, and I hope that my research will go some way to show that, with a little planning and cooperation, rural communities can be proactive about protecting their property. Crime prevention need not be costly or complex, it can be as simple and cheap as you want it to be – what is key is that it is the most suitable form of security for your property, and will prove to be the most effective.
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