A £750,000 investment into keep South Holland and Lincolnshire’s rural communities safe comes with an expectation of results, according to the county’s top police officer.
Bill Skelly, Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police, officially unveiled a package that includes 4x4 vehicles, a drone with thermal imaging camera, quad bikes and a specially trained rural crime team to NFU members on Monday.
Speaking to the Spalding Guardian after the meeting near Boston, Mr Skelly accepted that the county’s new Rural Community Safety Strategy was his most significant decision since taking over as Chief Constable five months ago.
Mr Skelly said: “I met with the farming community on February 17 and heard their passionate pleas for more assistance in dealing with rural crime issues.
“So I was delighted to be able to meet with them again to introduce the Rural Community Safety Strategy which, ultimately, has been based on listening to what the people of Lincolnshire have had to say.
“From the very first day of my appointment, the Police and Crime Commissioner said that rural issues were high on his agenda and he would support me in obtaining whatever resources were needed.”
From the very first day of my appointment, the Police and Crime Commissioner said that rural issues were high on his agenda and he would support me in obtaining whatever resources were neededBill Skelly, Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police
The new strategy also came with a vow from Mr Skelly that police will visit every farm in Lincolnshire “over the coming months” to hear about hare coursing and rural crime in general.
It contrasts with the decision by Lincolnshire Police two years ago to disband its Operation Galileo team of officers dedicated to tackling hare coursing, despite achieving more than 350 prosections in two years.
Mr Skelly said: “The decision was made given the circumstances at the time when there were some really tough choices to make around resources.
“There will be more tough decisions to make if we don’t see an improvement in police funding.
“However, I’ve been able to bring more resources that are available to me now into the Rural Community Safety Strategy and I look forward to the next 12 months when the training and resources will come to bear.”
The new Rural Community Safety Strategy has been welcomed by NFU East Midlands regional director Gordon Corner who hosted Monday’s meeting.
Mr Corner said: “Farmers made their feelings very plain at a meeting we held in February when the Chief Constable was just days into his new job.
“Rural crime is a huge issue for our farming community and the fears voiced by farmers and their families are compounded because of the isolated nature of their homes and businesses.
“Mr Skelly has taken our messages on board and laid out his strategy to help tackle a number of crimes, including hare coursing, theft and fraud.
“His understanding of our rural communities’ needs means that his commitment, given at the Boston meeting on Monday, should yield results in ensuring a timely police response to reports of crime in our rural communities which is essential.”
Both Mr Skelly and Marc Jones, Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner, vowed to put pressure on the courts and the Crown Prosecution Service to push for stiffer penalties for rural crimes.
Earlier this month, a man was told by magistrates to pay a total of £315 in fines and costs after he admitted to trespassing on farmland in the Deepings in February.
Mr Corner said: “We are also pleased that Marc Jones, our Police and Crime Commissioner, is working closely with the police and that extra resources, both tangible and practical, are being brought to bear in the fight against rural crime.
“We very much hope that the new SUV and drone purchases will mean that police officers are better equipped to catch the criminals who prey on farming and other rural businesses and bring considerable fear and anxiety to their victims.
“The hare coursing season will begin shortly so we are hopeful that the increase in resources that Mr Skelly has pledged, together with his assurances that Lincolnshire Police will tackle crime in our rural areas, will bear fruit. “However, the historic conviction rates and, in particular, levels of sanction imposed on hare coursers need to be much improved if Lincolnshire’s farmers and their families are able to live without fear and dread of the next coursers’ visit.”