Rural crime in North Wales has been slashed by two-thirds since the introduction of a special police taskforce 18 months ago, it’s been revealed.
The dedicated team was set up by North Wales Police at the request of Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick and it has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of countryside incidents.
In September 2013, there were 36 rural crimes, offences as diverse as livestock rustling, theft of farm machinery, badger digging and stealing rare birds’ eggs.
But last month, March 2015, there were just 12 and the general trend has been down throughout the period since the North Wales Police Rural Crime Team was introduced.
The number of crimes peaked in March last year at 38 and that quarter, from January to the end of March there were 85 crimes recorded – in the same period this year there have been just 42, less than half the number.
The Police and Crime Commissioner raised the idea of setting up the team with the Chief Constable after speaking to farmers on visits to livestock markets across North Wales.
He said: “The rural areas of Wales, especially the agricultural community contributes such a large amount to the Welsh economy, it’s a huge contribution. Therefore, they are just as entitled as any other section of our community in Wales to have effective and efficient policing.
“When I went about the agricultural animal markets during my campaign, the one story I was hearing from all the farmers, from all the farming unions, including the Young Farmers, that the rural areas were not adequately policed and there was an obvious need for that gap to be filled.
“They were talking about the theft of sheep, the theft of diesel, the theft of agricultural machinery like tractors and bulldozers and JCBs and burglary into remote outhouses.
“There was very obviously a kind of crime which was entirely peculiar to the countryside which was not the focus of sufficient attention by the police.
“I’m immensely pleased that the team has been so successful but I can’t claim it to be my idea. I was simply responding to what I was hearing in the market place from the farmers and the people who live in the countryside.
“The rural community regard the members of the Rural Crime Team as being one of them and if you observe the way the Rural Crime Team work when they’re in the presence of the countryside, you’ll see what I mean because there is an affinity between the police and the people as there should be always.
“We have got two very strong farming unions in Wales and each of them is grateful that we’ve had a Rural Crime Team and each is playing a full part in helping the members of the Rural Crime Team to become better at policing the countryside area.
“The Rural Crime Team has set a benchmark for the rest of the UK. Their work is attracting a great deal of interest from other forces.”
One of the most dramatic falls has been in the numbers of thefts from farms, mainly of fuel and of livestock – there were 41 cases in the nine months to May last year and just 15 since then.
Burglaries at farms have fallen in the same period from 85 to 41, thefts of quad bikes from 27 to just three and there have been no metal thefts since September.