New Rural Crime Taskforce to launch later this year
Following funding from the Police & Crime Commissioner, allocated in the 2021/22 budget, Thames Valley Police are launching a new Rural Crime Taskforce later this year.
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 includes large urban centres, but also covers hundreds of square miles of countryside encompassing many small towns, villages and isolated communities.
This new approach will ensure that the Force can be much more proactive in tackling rural crime.
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.
Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner, Matthew Barber, said:
“The police must respond to the needs of communities, and in rural areas that response needs to be different from in our towns and cities. Developing this rural taskforce is absolutely the right way forward to reassure communities and drive down acquisitive crime.”
A new beginning for Community Speedwatch in Thames Valley
Speeding traffic is a regular and emotive concern for communities across Thames Valley and a new pilot scheme is set to help tackle the problem.
Volunteers from across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire are on hold currently due to lockdown regulations. As the restrictions are being lifted, local community groups will be able to resume their speedwatch activities as soon as possible but this is only the first step in a revolution in roads safety across Thames Valley.
Thanks to a new partnership with Community Speedwatch online, the not-for-profit social enterprise that provides a platform for speedwatch schemes. Thames Valley, following a successful pilot period, will consolidate the partnership thus taking a major step forward in the way we tackle and improve road safety.
When restrictions are lifted, schemes will be able to restart their former activity to keep their communities safe by checking for speeding vehicles. At the same time, a pilot scheme will be launched to trial a new system, supporting and training volunteers, as well as capturing the data for community speedwatch in order to better analyse data for potential police activity
Beginning with one pilot in Buckinghamshire, the scheme is then expected to be trialled in other locations across Oxfordshire and Berkshire over a six-month period and, if successful, will become the model for all community speedwatch schemes in the Thames Valley.
Championed by the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner, new speedwatch groups will have the opportunity to borrow speed detection equipment and devices, helping volunteers to assist in the battle against speeding motorists.
Before community teams can be deployed to the roadside, they will undergo a number of training sessions, both online and at roadside, to ensure risk assessments have been completed and protocols have been adhered to.
The new online platform allows group-related activities to be self-regulated via an online calendar and also provides vehicle make recognition training. DVLA pre-checks logged registration numbers for authenticity before automatically passing data on to the police for further processing.
Further information on the Community Speedwatch scheme can be found at: https://www.thamesvalley-pcc.gov.uk/get-involved/speedwatch/
Thames Valley Police to pilot new powers to tackle knife crime
The Home Secretary has confirmed that Thames Valley Police will be one of four forces to trial the introduction of new post-conviction powers to further tackle knife crime and violence.
Thames Valley Police, alongside West Midlands, Merseyside and Sussex, will trial the introduction of new Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs).
The court orders are designed to ensure convicted offenders receive additional interventions and support to help prevent their reoffending. They will give police enhanced stop and search powers so that those who continue to carry a knife or an offensive weapon are more likely to be caught and put in prison.
They will also help protect vulnerable offenders from being drawn into further exploitation by criminal gangs, by acting as a deterrent to any further weapons carrying.
Targeted use of stop and search, as part of a wider approach to intervene and support offenders, will help to safeguard those communities most at risk.
The pilot will test how well the orders deter violent offenders from carrying weapons, before a decision is made on national roll out.
The force awaits further guidance from the Home Office on the pilot which will inform when and how these new powers can be put into operation.
SVROs are part of the Policing, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill which the Government introduced to Parliament earlier this month.
Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Matthew Barber, said:
“We must and will bear down on those who choose to carry knives on our streets. Keeping the public safe must be our top priority and the change to trial these new Serious Violence Reduction Orders will give our Violence Reduction Unit the opportunity to get one step ahead of those who threaten violence on our streets.”
Project Vigilant - successfully tackling sexual assaults in the night time economy
We should all feel safe walking our streets, but for many people the fear of being attacked can be very real. In reality the likelihood of becoming a victim of a physical or sexual assault on the streets is incredibly low, but that does not limit the harm done on those occasions when such crimes do take place. Whilst we all have a role to play in changing attitudes about violence, particularly to women and girls, the police have a particularly important role in preventing attacks wherever possible.
Project Vigilant began in Oxford in 2019 and involves the police in carrying out covert operations to identify men displaying concerning and predatory behaviour. A uniformed team, including specially trained detectives are then able to intervene in order to prevent incidents from taking place. More than 50 men have been stopped as part of the operation and several arrests made, resulting in charges for sexual offences.
Overall the operation saw a 50% reduction in reported rapes in Oxford and a 30% reduction in other sexual assaults. Anecdotal reports from some victims also cited that media coverage of the operation made them feel more confident in coming forward to report their attack to the police.
Project Vigilant focussed very deliberately on the night time economy, either in the city centre or where people were walking home. In the last year most of the hospitality industry and therefore the night time economy has been shut down, but as the pubs and clubs reopen, so Project Vigilant will restart and in other areas across Thames Valley in order to ensure that we can all have confidence to walk the streets and those who choose to harass and attack other will know that they are being watched.
Adopting this operation on a wider basis is just part of a plan to ensure that Thames Valley becomes a safer place to live. Increased recruitment of police officers and investment in PCSOs will mean more visible neighbourhood policing, and a strategic approach to reducing serious violence through the Police & Crime Commissioner's Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) will all make our streets safer.
Sadly in dealing with the issues of sexual and violent assaults on women we know that these are thankfully rare in public places but sadly far to common in their own homes. We must continue to prioritise the response to domestic abuse, supporting victims and improving the how the criminal justice system deals with domestic abuse cases in order to keep everyone safe. You can find out more about my plan to fight domestic abuse at www.matthewbarber.co.uk/domesticabuse.
Your questions answered live on Zoom
I am continuing my series of online Police & Crime Conversations. If you have any questions, views or concerns about policing and crime issues across Thames Valley or some of the major national issues that impact on policing in our community why not join the conversation?
The next free online event is tomorrow evening, Wednesday 31st March at 7pm on Zoom and Facebook Live!
Simply log click the link below to register on to Zoom or join in via my Facebook page.
There are just 42 days left until the Police & Crime Commissioner elections taking place across the country. There are also local elections taking place in most areas across the Thames Valley. Postponed from last year due to coronavirus, these elections are your chance to have your say about the strategic priorities for policing in your community.
Whoever you elect as PCC will be responsible for:
- Managing a budget of nearly half a billion pounds
- Holding the Chief Constable to account
- Appointing - and if necessary - firing the Chief Constable
- Setting the priorities for the police, reflecting the concerns of the public
- Providing services for victims of crime
You can find out more about my plan for fighting crime across Thames Valley if elected on Thursday 6th May on my website at www.matthewbarber.co.uk/myplan.
Whoever you decide to support in this election, make sure your voice is heard. In the coming weeks you will be receiving your polling card from your local council. You can vote in person from 7am to 10pm on Thursday 6th May at your local polling station. Extra precautions are being taken to ensure that voting is safe.
If you would rather you can also register to vote by post. Applications must be received by your local council by 5pm on Tuesday 20th April. Click here to find out how to apply.
A round up of other news and views about policing and crime in Thames Valley...
- New legislation will give new powers to deal with illegal encampments, tackle knife crime and more
- Ambitious plan to reduce reoffending launched by Thames Valley PCC
- GPS tags to hunt burglars and cut theft
- Thames Valley VRU host “virtual visit” to DIVERT programme by Government minister
- £735,000 funding boost to tackle serious violence in Thames Valley
- Sixteen charged following serious organised crime raids
- Funding boost helps improve police communication with people with autism
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