Earlier this month, following extensive correspondence with a farming family in my constituency who have had the misfortune of being consistently targeted by organised criminals over the past 20 years, I organised a meeting between a number of local farmers, representatives from the local NFU Mutual branches and representatives from Thames Valley Police to discuss the ever-present issue of rural crime.
The meeting provided a platform for members of the local farming community to air their concerns, ask questions, share personal experiences and discuss how the local police force can best support victims of rural crime. All present felt that the meeting created a useful channel of communication between local farmers and the local police which, I am confident, will continue in the coming months and years.
As Member of Parliament for a substantially rural constituency, I am all too aware of the significant rural crime problem which exists in and around Buckinghamshire. However, it must be noted that rural crime does not just affect farms; in fact, a significant number of rural crimes in the Aylesbury Vale area also involve thefts from sheds and outbuildings, or offences concerning horses, stables and liveries.
Rural crime is significantly under-reported. This could be for a number of reasons – perhaps it is cheaper for the victim to replace the stolen item themselves rather than claiming on their insurance, or perhaps because individuals simply do not think it is worth reporting the crime. Either way, during the meeting Thames Valley Police could not stress enough the importance of reporting any and all crimes, particularly those affecting the rural. Thames Valley explained that even if they are unable to collect enough evidence to solve that one specific crime, it allows them to collect intelligence and build up a bigger picture of how criminals in the local area operate. Reporting thefts also allows the police to match items with their owners if they are recovered at a later date.
This article was first published in the Herald on 25th May and the Advertiser on 27th May.
Geographically, Buckingham is a rather large constituency but in spite of its rurality, and the great distances which sometimes separate one settlement from its nearest neighbour, I am repeatedly struck by the strong sense of community I observe when I visit local towns and villages.