Rural crime rises in Sussex
Sussex Police recorded more than 5,700 rural crimes in 2019/20 – a rise of more than 350 compared to the previous year.
Rural crime falls into four categories – agricultural, equine, wildlife and heritage – and can also include environmental issues such as fly-tipping and the polluting of streams and rivers.
News of the rise was shared during a meeting of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel, where members were updated on the Rural Crime Team, strategy and network, which were set up to deal with the issue.
In West Sussex, the highest increase was seen in Mid Sussex, with 584 cases recorded – a rise of 101.
In Horsham there were 748 cases (up 69), in Adur and Worthing there were 224 (up 46), while in Crawley, cases rose by almost one-third, up 52 to 218 incidents.
The number of incidents in Arun fell from 417 to 376, while in Chichester there were 163 fewer cases – though the 845 recorded crimes were still the highest in West Sussex.
In East Sussex, Rother and Wealden saw the most rural crime committed, with 716 and 884 cases respectively, both a rise of more than 100.
In Brighton there were 478 cases (up 18), in Eastbourne there were 151 (up 11) and in Lewes there were 333 (up seven).
Almost 2,000 of the crimes were violent – a rise of 12 per cent – with burglaries rising by almost one-quarter – up 172 to 888 cases – and criminal damage rising from 760 cases to 797.
Sussex is 62 per cent rural, so Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne saw the setting up of the Rural Crime Team to be money well spent.
The team operates out of bases at Midhurst and Heathfield and is made up of two sergeants; eight constables and six Police Community Support Officers.
Panel member Roy Briscoe, of Chichester District Council, said the team had already raised confidence within rural communities and was encouraging more reporting of crime.
Mrs Bourne said: “It’s very important that those communities who are slightly isolated don’t feel they are being ignored.”
Working with the National Farmers’ Union and the Country Land & Business Association, Sussex Police has developed a Rural Crime Strategy outlining how rural communities will be protected.
In addition, a network of 40 points of contact has been set up to raise awareness, with all new police constable recruits being given practical rural crime training from local farmers.
A report to the panel said that, since it was set up in June, the team has patrolled more than 10,000 miles of rural roads, including narrow lanes off the main highways which were not previously covered.
This has led to 181 intelligence reports being filed.
Eight stop and searches have been carried out and two arrests made; and 185 new members were signed up to the Country Watch network.
With far more farmers now using Disc, an online crime information sharing system, Mr Briscoe predicted that next year’s rural crime figures would be much higher than this year’s.