THE charity Crimestoppers has launched an appeal for anonymous information to help protect hard-pressed rural communities across Essex. It calls on everyone to play their part in stopping rural crime in the county as more of us are visiting the countryside during the pandemic.
Criminal gangs exploit local wildlife, environment and communities in many ways: rural residents often feel unsafe in their own homes; farm owners have to foot the bill for criminal damage; and local businesses in rural areas can see their income and cashflow adversely affected.
Rural crime is repetitive and organised – without information it can’t be tackled – and yet visitors to Essex can help by being the eyes and ears of these more isolated communities and report anonymously what they see.
In the year to April 2021, Crimestoppers nationally received nearly 2,700 anonymous reports about rural crime. Whilst this is a 14% increase on the year before, it suggests a degree of under-reporting – hence why the charity is launching this awareness-raising campaign to encourage more people to speak up. Indeed, last year our charity passed on over 4,300 anonymous pieces of information given to us from the people of Essex.
Here are some anonymised examples of information the charity has recently received from across the UK:
- A named man is using aggressive dogs to carry out illegal hunting of deer and game including rabbits. He goes hunting across the fields at named location.
- Local tradesmen at (address given) are burying asbestos in earth mounds on the field (as given). They are also dumping and burning rubbish.
- Named men all involved in the theft of plant machinery from building sites and farms. They are involved in stealing diggers, caterpillars, bobcats and tractors that do not have trackers on. They have been doing this for many years. They sell the stolen goods to others including across Europe.
From its latest claims’ statistics issued last week, NFU Mutual estimates that rural theft cost the UK a staggering £43.3m in 2020 and the Eastern region £6.4m, with Essex in the top three worst affected areas, costing the county £1.6m.
Crimestoppers has been working with Mitie and Neighbourhood Watch to help raise the profile of rural crime. They want people to know what it is, why it’s a problem and what the public can do to help. The charity’s 4-week local and national campaign is supported by NFU Mutual, RSPCA, Countryside Alliance, NFU, Openreach, FireStoppers, Link, National Wildlife Crime Unit, Environment Agency, CLA and the Angling Trust.
Key themes will focus on wildlife crime, environmental crime and theft, all of which have a detrimental and often crushing affect rural communities.
Initially, the campaign will explore hare coursing, poaching and badger baiting, with advice on how to spot the signs, sharing prevention advice and hearing from organisations who work with the police and other partners to prevent and solve these crimes. The campaign will also share guest content from partners in the police to learn what they’re doing and how your anonymous information can help police investigations.
For more information about the campaign, please visit our website.
Philip Breckon, Eastern Regional Manager at the charity Crimestoppers, said: “Our charity knows how damaging crime in the countryside can be: to local communities, to rural businesses, to farmers, wildlife and the environment.
“Every day we hear from people who are in the know about those involved in damaging our beautiful countryside in Essex, but there is so much more we can do. By telling us anonymously what you know, whether you live or are visiting rural areas, your information can help make all the difference.
“A team of professionals working at our charity’s UK Contact Centre anonymise all information received – to ensure the person giving the details is never identified – before passing it on to police to investigate. Your voice really can make a difference. Working together, we can help protect our precious countryside and rural environment, communities and business from the harm caused by these criminal gangs.”
John Hayward-Cripps, Chief Executive of Neighbourhood Watch Network, said: “With headlines often focused on crime in the cities, it is easy to forget rural crime, but rural crime is increasing and is a serious issue. From hare coursing to machinery theft, the impact of rural crime on victims’ lives and livelihood can be enormous, with victims often left with long-term anxiety. Together we can stop it.”
To report rural crime 100% anonymously, visit the charity’s website Crimestoppers-uk.org and fill in a simple and secure anonymous online form or call their 24/7 UK Contact Centre on freephone 0800 555 111, 365 days of the year. In an emergency, always call 999.