Country Watch messaging system launches across the Thames Valley
Thames Valley Police and the Thames Valley Rural Crime Partnership (TVRCP) have launched Country Watch today (10/4). Country Watch is a free Thames Valley Alert messaging system specifically for people who live or work in rural communities. The new message system aims to help prevent, disrupt and detect criminal activity across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.
Country Watch was formed as the next step in tackling rural crime and in particular, to engage with individuals, communities and businesses most affected by rural crime.
By signing up to Country Watch, individuals will receive crime alerts, witness appeals, galleries of wanted criminals or suspects, information on community groups, events or meetings and details of any operational or proactive police work going on in their area. As with Thames Valley Alert, individuals can choose whether to receive the information by email, text or telephone.
Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld said: “Rural crime is one of my key priorities and it is often a hidden crime, however in financial, commercial loss and intimidation terms it is a serious crime in the Thames Valley. I am delighted that we are giving time and effort to detect and reduce it.
Inspector Angela Jones from Neighbourhood Policing and Partnerships said: “Although it is important to get our information out to those who need it, it is equally important for those communities to be able to communicate with us when they need to.
“Country Watch allows the individual to reply to our messages, share any intelligence or suspicions with us and hopefully become more attuned with the rural neighbourhood policing teams which is vital when trying to detect and reduce rural crime.
“I hope by building on two-way communication in this way, trust and confidence can grow between these communities and the Police.”
"Engaging successfully with communities is an important part of reducing crime and building trust between them and the police. Country Watch is a brilliant communication tool and I would urge people to sign up to start receiving messages.”
Tim Price, Farming and Rural Affairs specialist, NFU Mutual, said: “Watch schemes and alert schemes like Country Watch are important to help keep the public informed of what is happening, and to give them the opportunity to voice their concerns. With rural crime estimated to have cost UK agriculture £52.7 million in 2011, we’re always pleased to hear about new initiatives aimed at helping people feel safer and prevent crime in their communities.
“As the UK’s leading rural insurer we believe that by employing suitable security measures, simple deterrents and by rural communities working together to share information and look out for one another, many crimes can be prevented.”
CLA South East regional director Robin Edwards said: “The true cost of farm theft and other rural crime is more than simply the value of the items taken. There is the cost of lost production time, of repairing the damage caused plus the risk of livestock straying due to gates being left open or fencing taken down.
“The CLA supports the efforts of Country Watch and Thames Valley Police in engaging with the rural community and encouraging a two-way communication process which will benefit all affected stakeholders. It is our hope that the information captured is not restrained to police boundaries and that Thames Valley Police are willing to share information with neighbouring constabularies for the benefit a rural communities nationwide.”
The ACPO Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (AVCIS) who also form part of the TVRCP, have officers within the NFU Mutual offices whose role it is to identify criminal gangs who steal agricultural equipment and assist police forces in tackling this type of crime by providing intelligence.
AVCIS Temporary Head of Unit Philip Boswell said: “AVCIS are proactive in identifying crime trends and advising manufacturers of the latest methods of theft to ensure they can design out the weak point in the vehicle's security. It is not only tractors, which form the greatest amount of thefts, but also quad bikes and private farm vehicles.
AVCIS produce a weekly bulletin to several hundred officers around the UK and this includes a page for agricultural equipment. AVCIS are very much aware of the cost, both in terms of monetary value and lost production associated with theft of agricultural machinery and vehicles, and are determined to work with our partners to prevent the loss of agricultural vehicles and catch those responsible. Country Watch will play a key role when communicating our intelligence and gathering new intelligence with rural communities".
To sign up to Country Watch visit the website. Country Watch is not for reporting crime. To report a crime, call the 24-hour non-emergency number 101, or 999 in an emergency.
Thames Valley Alert account holders are able to receive Country Watch messages by ticking the ‘Country Watch’ box on the community membership list on their existing account.
Rural crime can be defined as, but not limited to, any crime unique to rural areas which have a direct impact on communities and the rural economy. These crimes could include theft of agricultural machinery, hare coursing and fly tipping. There are crimes which, although are not unique to rural areas, do have a significant impact on the victims, such as metal thefts.
The TVRCP, lead by Thames Valley Police was formed in December 2011 in acknowledgment of the policing challenges presented by our significant rural geography.
The partnership members include:
Thames Valley Police
CountryLand and Business Association (CLA)
National Farmers Union (NFU)
National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO)
ACPO Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service
TVRCP has identified four crime priorities to tackle over the next year. These are:
Theft of agricultural machinery and plant
Organised crime groups
Poaching and hare coursing
Education and awareness of rural crime within Thames Valley.