A new team of volunteer rural crime spotters are to assist in crime prevention in the Chiltern and South Buckinghamshire areas.
The volunteers are all horse riders who will engage with the rural community whilst out on their normal hacking route and assist in rural and equine crime prevention.
Although the rural crime spotters initiative is backed by Thames Valley Police the role is voluntary and has no police powers attached. The role builds on the work of the Thames Valley Horse Watch network which brings local horse owners, riders and equestrian workers together with their local police team.
The volunteers will report any suspicious activity, including fly tipping, unauthorised off road biking and hare coursing to the rural crime reporting line, run by the National Farmers Union in conjunction with Crimestoppers. This national, anonymous reporting system allows offences and activity to be directed to the correct agency. For example, fly-tipping is dealt with by the local authority. Where a crime is in progress, spotters will report this directly to the police.
The rural crime spotters initiative was the vision of Helen Evans, who is an Equine Liaison volunteer for Thames Valley Police. She said: ‘Within the equine community we have an untapped source of people who are able to act as the eyes and ears of the police in rural areas. Recognising this, and researching other schemes run by police forces across the country, I devised the rural spotters scheme.
Riders have the unique ability to go to fairly inaccessible places and have the advantage of height to see over hedges. My hope is that the scheme will make the countryside a safer place for all.‘
Neighbourhood Sergeant Darren Walsh said: ‘I am pleased that as part of national volunteers week, we can highlight the work we have undertaken with Helen and our local community to develop the Rural Spotters initiative.
This scheme has the potential for horse riders to make our rural communities safer whilst on their regular rides. Those who live and work in these areas are best placed to know when something seems suspicious. By working together with the riding community, we can make criminals think twice, and deter and detect crime.‘
Berks, Bucks and Oxon NFU Chairman Jeff Powell said: ‘The NFU is delighted that Thames Valley Police is working with rural communities in launching this ingenious initiative to harness the eyes and ears of mounted volunteers in the fight against rural crime.
Rural Spotters on horseback will be well placed to report any unusual or suspicious behaviour in the Buckinghamshire countryside and then log this anonymously through the NFU’s Rural Crime Reporting Line, run in partnership with Crimestoppers. The Rural Crime Reporting Line is a key part of the NFU’s ongoing work to tackle rural criminal behaviour on farms and in the wider countryside.‘
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Barber said: ‘The support that volunteers give to the police is vital to keep our communities safe. We all have a responsibility to report crime and suspicious activity and it is great to recognise the work of these rural crime spotters in assisting the work of Thames Valley Police across the countryside.‘