Rural crime is an issue I care passionately about. I live in a small village and fully understand the concerns of those associated with the farming industry and those living in isolated rural locations.
I am the only candidate that is committed to a dedicated Rural Crime Taskforce that will help to deal with issues of rural crime in addition (not instead of) existing neighbourhood policing teams.
I will ensure that the police recognise that many people in rural communities can often feel marginalised and vulnerable, and we have seen an increase in serious and organised crime targeting rural areas.
Thames Valley’s area of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire covers hundreds of square miles of countryside encompassing many small towns, villages and isolated communities.
It is important that rural communities also feel supported and protected.
Whilst there are some excellent rural neighbourhood officers, who are highly valued by the rural community, there is room for improvement by developing a team with a critical mass of officers, appropriate knowledge and understanding of rural crime issues to support rural policing.
This new approach would ensure that the Force can be much more proactive in tackling rural crime.
If elected the Rural Crime Taskforce will be introduced later this year and will be a dedicated team of properly trained and equipped rural crime specialists. They will operate as a team and provide a full-time rural capability for Thames Valley Police. This will be in addition and in support of our rural neighbourhood officers, who will continue in their important role of supporting their local, rural communities.
The taskforce will:
- Build trust and confidence with our rural communities.
- Provide dedicated high visibility patrols and reassurance to our rural communities.
- Provide a proactive specialist capability and capacity for tackling rural crime.
- Make Thames Valley a hostile place for serious and organised rural criminality.
- More effectively tackle cross border criminality through working effectively with our neighbouring forces and co-ordinating our response across the force.
- Work in support of our rural neighbourhood teams.
- Develop our rural crime intelligence picture and provide an intelligence led approach.
There are also specific initiatives that I intend to roll out to tackle issues such as fly-tipping (https://www.matthewbarber.co.uk/flytipping), illegal encampments (https://www.matthewbarber.co.uk/news/backing-new-laws-deal-illegal-encampments) and speeding in rural areas (https://www.matthewbarber.co.uk/speeding).
If I am fortunate enough to be elected as PCC, I will continue to ensure that Thames Valley Police relentlessly targets and disrupts any serious and organised crime groups involved in rural and wildlife crime, seeking to obtain the greatest possible sentences and convictions through the criminal justice system, as appropriate.
I have always sought to work closely with the NFU, CLA, Countryside Alliance and others with an interest in tackling rural crime and if elected I want to strengthen these relationships, developing a rural crime strategy to hold Thames Valley Police to account for protecting our rural communities.