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Understanding Rural Crime

The Rural context

Rural England and Wales is a landscape of differing communities, many in transition and each with its own pattern of social and economic relationships.

Whatever their particular form and the forces acting upon them, rural areas are distinctive in broad cultural terms and these distinctions are relevant to an understanding of tackling rural crime.

  • Rural communities tend to be small scale and close knit. People know each other and patterns of interaction tend to be local and informal.

  • Rural communities have embraced traditions of mutual help and self-reliance, supportive of each other and sometimes suspicious of strangers.

  • Local economies are small scale and rural poverty is often hidden beneath the picture post card veneer of prosperity.

  • Geographical isolation and limited access to services is often associated with slow rates of social change and limited external influence.

  • Whilst formal communications may be slow, local information is rapidly shared and whilst criminality is difficult to hide, it is also more likely to be hidden from casual view.

The Impact of Technology on Policing

New technical developments will help all police forces improve response times and can bring special benefit to rural areas

The Public Safety Radio Communication Project, for example, will reduce the amount of time officers spend at police stations by providing them with direct mobile text and message facilities and links to the telephone network from cars and handsets. This will in turn increase the amount of time which officers can spend on patrol or dealing with crime. Rural areas will benefit particularly since officers may patrol many miles from police stations.

Access to databases via the new facility will provide officers with information which will enable them to deal more effectively with incidents (for instance by telling them if there is an arrest warrant extant or if someone is likely to be armed).

The ability to work in talk groups of several officers will enable them to co-ordinate activities more effectively without direction from the control room many miles away.

Other technological improvements include:

  • £4 million in capital in the current financial year for police aviation;

  • a speedier reaction to calls and dispatch of resources through the next generation Command and Control computer system;

  • a national Geographic Information System to improve the speedy location of incidents.

The Police Scientific Development Branch recently surveyed all forces about new technologies.

26 Forces responded and made the following key points:

  • The inability of current technologies to operate effectively in remote areas with poor communications and without mains infrastructure.

  • The lack of technological training

  • The difficulty of tracing stolen property, in particular farm machinery and livestock.

  • The loss of time in travelling to and from police stations for information/paper-work and the need for increased police visibility.

  • Lack of access to information and/or police services for the public in rural areas.

Technologies currently being developed at PSDB will assist police in rural areas

Examples include:

  • The development of alarm technology including wire-free alarms, alarm verification systems which reduce police time spent on false alarms in rural areas,

  • Property identification through tracking using tagging/chipping and Geographic Information System technology.

  • Revisit the PSDB document 15/98,’Plant Security Guidance’ and encourage the use of Vehicle Recognition Numbers and other property marking.

  • Long range transmission systems for CCTV and alarms using relay stations.

  • Touch-screen development to allow two-way information flow, linked possibly to Tourist Information and other touch-screen locations in libraries and post offices.

Further details from Police Scientific Development Branch,tel;01727 865051

Types of rural areas

Rural communities can be classified in a number of different ways, some of them completely self-contained.

The British Crime Survey uses ACORN - A Classification of Residential Neighbourhoods - categorisation to identify types of areas:

ACORN classifies households according to the demographic, employment and housing characteristics of the surrounding neighbourhood, as measured by the 1991 Census. Rural areas are those falling in the ACORN types listed below:

  • Wealthy suburbs, large detached houses

  • Villages with wealthy commuters

  • Mature, affluent home owning areas

  • Affluent suburbs, older families

  • Mature, well off suburbs

  • Agricultural villages, home based workers

  • Holiday retreats, older people, home based workers

  • Home owning areas, well-off older residents

  • Private flats, elderly people

  • Rural areas, mixed occupations

ACORN was developed by CACI Ltd. Further details can be found at www.datadepot.co.uk.

The report ‘NOTHING EVER HAPPENS AROUND HERE’ published by the National Youth Agency identified five types of rural location;

  • Remote rural areas: - Dominated by traditional values of agrarian society, such areas are characterised by single dwellings, isolated farms and scattered settlements.

  • Villages: - often self-designating, those communities may be located close to urban areas and may be expanding or contracting as economic and social units. Survival and development is often associated with the existence of a good transport infra structure and easy access to employment opportunities.

  • Market Towns: - often identified by an historic charter and their Importance as the hub of the local social and economic community.

  • Collapsed industrial areas; experiencing severe economic decline, for example former coalmining areas.

  • Coastal areas and hinterland: - may be separated into locations that are visited and location that are less visited.

Further details from; Antony Lawton, Head of Policy, National Youth Agency. Tel 0116 285 3700 or visit their web site at; www.nya.org.uk

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