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Commissioner & Chief reaffirm commitment to rural communities to crack down on crime

20 March 2024

Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones and Chief Constable Scott Chilton have reaffirmed their commitment to tackling crime in rural areas with further investment in technology which will help pursue organised crime gangs.

Both leaders agree that investing in specialist resources and technology to make rural Hampshire and the Isle of Wight impenetrable to criminals is a priority for policing.

The Commissioner has already provided £25,000 for redeployable ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras as part of her Emerging Needs Fund, which have now been installed. These are being deployed to hotspot areas identified by intelligence analysis, and can be moved quickly and efficiently as the intelligence picture changes to identify and deal with those travelling to the area to commit crime.

Deployment of these cameras was a clear priority for people, as was highlighted by our communities as a necessity in the force’s Rural Crime Survey.

With intelligence gathering being a critical part of the success, the Commissioner has also agreed a £1million investment in intelligence gathering capabilities to identify prolific offenders, announced in her 2024-25 budget.

The rural landscape and the types of offending taking place within these communities means drones are also a vital information and intelligence gathering tool to scan large areas of land, checking for stolen property and suspicious vehicles.

Aerial oversight allows the large open areas of land to be monitored and offenders tracked to try and obtain a successful resolution.

The Constabulary’s Country Watch teams, Priority Crime teams, and Roads Policing Units are now regularly combining their efforts to identify those entering Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to commit serious crimes with targeted operations on rural road networks.

PCC Donna Jones said: “Agricultural machinery and vehicle theft, hare coursing and poaching, theft of livestock, and fly-tipping are just some of the crimes found to have devastating consequences for those who reside, and own businesses, in the countryside.

“These crimes have to stop. Tackling rural crime is one of my top priorities in my Police and Crime Plan, I have invested heavily in intelligence gathering capabilities so the force can identify and take action against the career criminals who intentionally victimise rural communities, seeing them as an easy option.

“The increase in 650 extra officers over the last three years, as well as my announcement in January of a further 75 officers for 2024-25 means rural communities will see police more than ever before.”

Chief Constable Scott Chilton said: “As a force, with large rural areas combined with busy urban towns and cities, it’s crucial that we are using all of the tools at our disposal to make our communities a hostile environment for criminals. Alongside putting more officers and staff in the places where they can be most effective, we also need to have the right information and technology to enable us to detect, deter and disrupt criminality.

“I have already made changes to the structure of the force so that our neighbourhood teams are targeting the criminals causing the greatest impact, alongside their response colleagues and our dedicated local criminal investigators.

“This investment to strengthen our intelligence teams, and the increase in ANPR, will provide further support in preventing and reducing rural crime, shutting down county drug lines, tracing vulnerable missing people and ultimately protecting and reassuring our communities. It also re-emphasises my commitment and determination to take the fight to criminals in our communities here in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.”

Farmer, Charlie Hobbs, said: “It’s not just towns and cities that experience organised crime, but our villages and countryside too. Crimes like theft and vandalism have a huge impact on farmers, where often their business is their home as well.

“Those working in the rural economy often have to worry about the safety of their crops, livestock, machinery but most importantly their families, so I am reassured to see such action being taken.

“I am really glad to see the use of extra officers, as well as the deployment of technology and gathering intelligence, in our countryside. With these techniques in place, the police can help to identify those organised criminal groups and bring them to justice, while hopefully also deterring those who think rural areas are easy targets.

“I think all of us in rural and farming communities can be reassured that the crimes we are faced with are being policed with the same gravitas as those in our towns and cities.”