Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger has called for the needs of Cleveland’s rural communities to be prioritised, as a survey reveals residents felt more at-risk and isolated during Covid-19.
The survey on rural crime during the COVID-19 pandemic – and how Cleveland Police were tackling it – was undertaken by Mr Coppinger’s office at the height of the virus.
Results were discussed at the most recent meeting of the Tees Rural Crime Forum Taskforce, which Mr Coppinger chairs.
Mr Coppinger used results of the survey to find out about residents’ concerns and how they felt Cleveland Police had responded to what they perceived to be an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour during the pandemic.
The survey received 169 responses with 61% of respondents saying concerns over community safety had increased during COVID-19. The main issues for rural communities are:
- Fly tipping (highlighted as a problem by 58% of respondents)
- Anti-social behaviour (47%)
- Deliberate fire starting (38%)
- Off-road vehicles (37%)
- Theft of property (33%)
Increased footfall in rural areas has also brought increased anxiety due to:
- Lack of social distancing putting rural community members at risk
- People feeding livestock which can be harmful to the animals
- An increase in cyclists not keeping to paths and riding over fields
- An increase in out of control dogs, bringing concern over safety of livestock
- An increase in inexperienced walkers getting lost and entering private land
- Use of barbeques in rural areas leading to fire safety concerns
- Fears that higher numbers of the more heavily infected urban community are ‘bringing’ the virus into rural communities and transmitting itby touching gates and fences
Respondents also felt there was a lack of visible policing and lack of action, where breaches of the law and social distancing did take place.
They also claimed the Government and police were unclear about what was acceptable behaviour under new guidelines brought in to combat the spread of the pandemic.
These concerns were all against a backdrop of fear in reporting crime in small, rural communities. Individuals fear repercussions, as they can be easily identified and feel vulnerable.
PCC Barry Coppinger said: “Rural communities can often feel isolated – and that feeling of isolation is likely to have increased during COVID-19.
“It’s really important we listen to the concerns of rural residents and members of Tees Rural Crime Forum are taking a multi-agency approach to tackling these issues and keeping the countryside safe for all.
“I need to take on board the issues, which the residents raised, and make sure they are being tackled effectively by Cleveland Police and other agencies.”
Members of the Tees Rural Crime Forum Taskforce committed to exploring a number of measures to tackle concerns.
They included looking at the additional use of automatic number plate recognition and drones to prevent and investigate crime, as well as how to better educate communities about the damage caused by fly-tipping and littering.
The recently-launched Tees River Rescue, which provides pro-active public safety patrols along the 18-mile stretch of the River Tees, may also provide a solution to some of the problems.
The forum is made up of representatives of Cleveland Police, the Environment Agency, Friends of Eston Hills, Cleveland Fire Brigade and Redcar and Cleveland Council.
The next meeting of the Tees Rural Crime Forum takes place on 3 August 2020.
Posted on Thursday 9th July 2020