Extra police officers drafted into countryside to fight rural crime

Extra police officers have been drafted in to patrol the Leicestershire and Rutland countryside to thwart hare-coursers, burglars, dangerous drivers, fly-tippers, farm robbers and church lead thieves.

By Nick Rennie
Friday, 22nd July 2022, 4:41 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd July 2022, 4:57 pm
The expanded Leicestershire Police rural crime policing team, from left, Pc Rob Cross, Pc Riannon Simpson, Pc Mike Statt, Sgt Paul Archer, Insp Claire Hughes, T/ACC Adam Streets, Pc Chris Vickers, Pc Matt Houghton, Pc Lauren De Wet, Pc Kelly Tones and (inset) Pc Emma-Louise Holmes
The expanded Leicestershire Police rural crime policing team, from left, Pc Rob Cross, Pc Riannon Simpson, Pc Mike Statt, Sgt Paul Archer, Insp Claire Hughes, T/ACC Adam Streets, Pc Chris Vickers, Pc Matt Houghton, Pc Lauren De Wet, Pc Kelly Tones and (inset) Pc Emma-Louise Holmes

The county force’s rural policing team is expanding from three to eight officers to provide extra resources to target, disrupt and address offenders targeting farms, businesses and homes in the villages.

All eight officers have a background in farming and a determination to tackle those issues which affect rural and farming communities - including machinery theft, rural, wildlife and heritage crime.

They are supported by the force’s 18 wildlife officers, heritage watch volunteers and those neighbourhood officers on rural beats.

The initial team of three, comprising Sgt Paul Archer, Pc Rob Cross and Pc Chris Vickers, was launched as part of a renewed rural crime strategy at the end of last year.

Each neighbourhood policing area (NPA) also has a new 4x4 Ford Ranger vehicle to help officers patrol off-road and in other rural areas.

Among the five new officers to join them now is Pc Matt Houghton, who will have responsibility for the Melton and Rutland NPA.

T/Assistant Chief Constable Adam Streets said: “The initial team of three has made a big impact in the last year in terms of recovering hundreds of thousands of pounds of stolen machinery; making significant arrests; cross border working and encouraging reporting, and I am delighted that we are able to expand the team further and invest in additional resources.

"We know the high impact rural crime can have on those who live and work in the countryside so this expanded team will be dedicated to tackling those issues and are supported further by neighbourhood officers on rural beats and the force’s wildlife officers.”

Harriet Ranson, National Farmers' Union (NFU) county adviser for Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland, commented: “Having worked very closely with Leicestershire Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner and NFU farmer members over the last two years, I am delighted with the announcement that within a year of its inception the original three-man rural crime team, who have already made a significant difference, is getting an additional five officers to ensure specialist cover across the rural beat.

"I anticipate this progress being built on further in the near future.’’

“Rural crime is not a side issue – it has a devastating and lasting impact on its victims – with offences often linked to organised criminal gangs.

"This commitment from Leicestershire Police demonstrates clearly how seriously they take rural crime and it gives criminals a stark warning – there is now a policing team entirely dedicated to stopping them from committing offences and catching them if they do.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Rupert Matthews welcomed the expanded team after declaring tackling rural and heritage crime a key priority in his Police and Crime Plan.

He said: “Crimes such as hare-coursing, burglary, dangerous driving, fly tipping, farm robberies and church lead thefts blight our villages and farms.

"I promised from the outset to provide resources to tackle the crimes that affect our countryside.

“Today is a time for celebration. We are evidently delivering on my promise and I assure you this is just the start.”