A new scheme is aiming to unite rural communities across the Melton borough in the fight against rural crime.
Rural Watch has been set up to create a wide network of villagers, farmers, churches and businesses encouraging them to report crimes and suspicious activity in their area and enabling them to share information quickly to help police catch criminals and deter criminal activity.
The free-to-join scheme was launched today (Tuesday) by Leicestershire Police at a multi-agency event held at Melton Cattle Market.
It brings together several existing schemes, including Horse Watch, Church Watch and Farm Watch, all under one banner to create a bigger network and to help ensure everyone has access to advice and information.
Figures released by rural insurer NFU Mutual have shown that rural crime cost Leicestershire £750,000 in 2014, confirming the seriousness of the issue across the county.
One of the benefits of Rural Watch is that people who sign up will become part of an alert system called FastText that will keep them informed of what’s happening where they live and work. Police say members can also expect to benefit from better use of social media to keep them informed on crime-related matters.
Gate signs are also available to members to help deter criminals and, as part of the scheme, a number of crime prevention events will be taking place where people can get crime prevention advice assessments from local police officers or specific support and advice.
Deputy Chief Constable Roger Bannister said: “Our communities are vital in helping us to tackle crime. They are our eyes and ears when it comes to the areas in which they live.
“We want people to ring in and report crime. By encouraging them to report to us any suspicious activity, we can respond more effectively and work with them to make their communities even safer.
“Being a member of the scheme is a two way process. We will provide members with crime alert messages, telling them about incidents that have occurred and, in exchange, we ask our Rural Watch members to actively report suspicious persons, vehicles or activity to us by calling 101.
“Rural Watch brings together the best bits of other schemes already running and perhaps most importantly it’s for the police to try and do a little bit better and work a little bit harder at getting information out there as quickly as possible and trying to improve communication.”
“We hope Rural Watch will give a clear message that the rural communities are committed to working together to actively prevent, deter and catch criminals.”
Steve Jeal, senior group secretary of NFU Mutual in Melton, said: “I like the idea of Rural Watch. It’s easy and free to join and it brings everything together under one umbrella. It raises awareness of rural crime, keeps members informed quickly using modern technology and it’s a great opportunity for people to find out more about crime prevention.”
Vic Allsop, clerk of Hoby with Rotherby Parish Council, was among the first to sign up to Rural Watch and said he’d be sharing information about the scheme with churches in the South West Framland Group.
Among the churches in this group are St James the Greater in Little Dalby and St Peter’s Church in Kirby Bellars which were both recently targeted by thieves who stripped lead and copper from their roofs.
He said: “I think Rural Watch is going to be really helpful in co-ordinating and sharing information quickly. If it helps to improve communication that can only be a good thing.”
Peter Voller, who is involved with the Barrowden Neighbourhood Watch scheme, said: “I think Rural Watch makes sense but I don’t think we can’t expect the police to do everything for us. We need to be aware and pass information on to each other, especially in small rural communities.
“If we don’t accept responsibility for our property and don’t co-operate and help each other then we shouldn’t be surprised if we get things stolen and don’t get them back.”
Rural Watch is open to anyone who lives, works or visits rural locations in Leicestershire and Rutland. For more information visit www.leics.police.uk/ruralwatch
You can also follow on Twitter @Leicsruralwatch and Facebook at /leicsruralwatch
Anyone interested in joining Rural Watch can email their details to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please include your name, telephone number, email address and address to register you with the scheme and also
say if you would like to receive text alerts, emails or both.
Rural Watch is supported by a number of partners including Melton Borough Council and Leicestershire Trading Standards.
People who attended Tuesday’s launch event were also able to get crime prevention and security advice provided by various stalls on topics including poaching and bike and saddle theft.
There is a property marking event at Langham Village Hall on Saturday (February 27) between 1pm and 4pm. Similar events are being held at Barrowden community shop on the morning of May 24 and at Normanton car park, Rutland Water, on July 5, 10am-11am.