A rural campaigning organisation has expressed concern at the small number of designated rural police officers in Bedfordshire.
In a recent meeting of the Police and Crime Panel on 12 October 2021, it was revealed that there are just seven police officers and one sergeant in Bedfordshire’s Rural Policing Team.
The numbers were revealed by the county’s police and crime commissioner (PCC), Festus Akinbusoye.
Mr. Akinbusoye reportedly told the meeting that he has “made the voice of the public” clear to Bedfordshire Police and that there is a desire to see a balance between urban and rural policing.
He went on to say:
“One of my concerns coming in [to this role] was that I was going to be hit with ‘well, there is very little crime in the rural areas, so do we need the Rural Crime Team to be maintained?”
He does, however, believe the chief constable has reacted positively to the view of Bedfordshire residents.
The revelations come after a 2020 Rural Crime Survey conducted by the Countryside Alliance found that over half of Bedfordshire based respondents felt that police take rural crime seriously enough.
The same survey, the results of which were broken down by county force location, found 39% of Bedfordshire respondents rating the police as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ in their area.
98% percent of those who took part in the survey locally thought crime was significant in their community.
The Countryside Alliance argue that the extent of crime in rural areas is only part of the problem. For many people, whether they have fallen victim to crime or not, the simple fear of crime can have as great a detrimental effect on their quality of life as the actual experience of crime itself.
The effect of long-term emotional stress, loss of confidence – particularly among young people, families and farmers – should not be underestimated.
It added that this fear of crime can also be exacerbated by rural isolation.
Speaking in response to the news, Sarah Lee, the Countryside Alliance’s director of policy and campaigning, said:
“There is clearly a feeling of deep concern by people living in Bedfordshire about a perceived lack of focus on tackling crime in rural areas.
“The police and crime commissioner is right to highlight this to Police chiefs and we sincerely hope the imbalance is addressed swiftly.
“Good rural policing isn’t just about numbers of police officers on the ground though.
If we truly want to tackle rural crime, then we must form effective partnerships between the police, rural communities and other authorities to ensure that the needs of rural people are truly understood so that the availability of services matches those needs.”
The 2021 Countryside Alliance Rural Crime Survey is now open for Bedfordshire residents to take part in.