Sussex Police is committed to keeping those living and working in rural communities safe and feeling safe.
A year on from the launch of the Rural Crime Strategy, today (Monday, 07/10/19) the first group of dedicated rural crime Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs) are all set to begin specialist training so they can provide isolated rural communities with the specific support they need.
The six trainees, who are all experienced PCSOs, will be based in local districts across Sussex, where they will be dedicated to tackling rural crime and issues affecting those communities such as machinery theft, livestock worrying and poaching.
To mark the launch of Rural Crime Awareness Week, some of the new Rural Crime PCSOs were joined on their first training day at Black Cap Farm in Lewes by Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner, Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne and National Farming Union rep, Romy Jackson.
Watched by the visitors, the trainees had a lesson in property marking from Rural Crime Lead Sergeant Tom Carter to help protect farmer Tony Monnington’s machinery from theft.
PCSO Olivia Clinton is looking forward to joining the local Lewes, Wealden and Eastbourne district as a Rural Crime PCSO in the next few weeks after gaining nine months experience in Brighton and Hove. She said: “I’m really excited about this new role. I grew up in a rural community near Brighton so I understand the impact that crime can have on rural dwellers and businesses, and that they sometimes feel they are overlooked.”
Olivia said: “I’m looking forward to be being able to engage with residents, farm owners and business owners and, along with partners, try to help solve their issues and make a real difference.”
Assistant Chief Constable Julia Chapman, Local Policing Lead, says: “We recognise the unique vulnerabilities of both those living and those running businesses in rural areas.
“Tackling those specific crime types targeted at rural communities through partnership working and intelligence sharing is central to our Rural Crime Strategy.
“The six new rural crime PSCOs will be ring-fenced to focus on the key areas of agricultural, wildlife, heritage and environmental crime, and will benefit from 12 month specialist training in these areas.
“Through building on our partnership work with the Environment Agency, local authorities, the NFU and other partners, they will help strengthen and protect our rural communities.
“Two of the PCSOs are already in role, while others will move into their new roles over the coming months. All have a passion for tackling rural crime and experience of rural communities, and I am confident they will make a real difference to their districts.”
Three of the new rural crime PCSOs will go to West Sussex, two to East Sussex and one to the rural areas around Brighton. Their tasking will come entirely from Sgt Carter, who has been the force operational lead for wildlife, agricultural heritage and environmental Crime for over five years.
Erica Baxter who will soon be a Rural Crime PCSO in the Horsham, Adur and Worthing area, has been a PCSO since 2013.
She added: “I am passionate about making a difference to rural communities. As a PCSO in the Horsham area, I have already taken a strong interest in engaging with our rural villages, and through working in partnership, have introduced Community Speedwatch groups and Shopwatch groups, for example.
“I am looking to focus on getting deeper into rural policing, addressing specific issues in the really rural areas, and in particular those affecting remote businesses, such as farms.”
Julie Pearce-Martin worked in education and nursing before joining the force as a PCSO eight years ago is excited about her new role Rother and Hastings, while Colin Booker, who has 11 years’ experience as a PCSO, is looking forward to focusing on rural policing in the Arun and Chichester area.
The roles the six officers are leaving will be immediately filled by PCSO apprentices who have already been training in those teams since July.
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “Tackling crime and building public confidence in rural areas across Sussex has always been one of my top priorities. From regular meetings with senior officers and the NFU I’m aware of how isolated farmers can feel, especially in a large county where available police resources may be some distance away.
“This is why I am delighted to now launch this team of dedicated, rurally trained PCSOs who will work not only to tackle crime but also to raise the profile of how farming communities are affected. Our local farmers and rural residents will soon have a PCSO in their area with the specific training needed to understand their concerns and the skills to address them properly.”
The Rural Crime PCSOs will build on the work of the force’s Rural and Wildlife Officers – who are regular officers with additional training to deal with agricultural, environmental, heritage and wildlife incidents -- and our Sussex Countrywatch scheme. Launched a year ago, Countrywatch helps protect rural dwellers and business people from crime through sharing information about risks and developments, as well as providing prevention advice.