06 July 1999
‘Bring back village bobby
to end rural crime wave’

By FWi staff

THE return of the village bobby is needed to fight a rural crime-wave said to be costing farmers almost £100 million a year, says a report to be published later today (Tuesday).

The report, by the National Federation of Womens Insitutes, says a decline in rural services has led to a soaring crime rate which threatens the rural way of life.

It will be launched this afternoon at the Royal Show in the presence of Alan Meale, minister at the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions.

The nationwide survey, called The Changing Village looks specifically at the police, transport, housing, education, health services, and shops.

It concludes that the concerns of people at the end of the millennium are still much the same as those when the last survey was carried out in 1956.

The NFU Mutual Insurance Society estimates that rural crime cost £93m last year, including the theft of 30,000 vehicles worth £73m.

Thefts of farm machinery and equipment cost the Mutual £14.2m, while livestock rustling accounted for £4m.

Only yesterday, it emerged that a new undercover squad made up of ex-SAS soldiers, gamekeepers and estate managers was being formed to fight rural crime.

The WI report says the major challenge currently facing rural areas is the contrast between an increase in population and a decrease in locally-provided services.

“It is important that those with responsibility for providing these services recognise the needs of rural areas,” said the WIs Bethan Williams.

“Rural communities have been neglected for far too long and, although the provision of some services may be more expensive, the maintenance of these services is vital.

“Village services are the backbone of our communities and need positive support from us all.”

The report says that an overall decline in local services is also a major cause of the rising levels of car use and of the need for improved public transport.

Almost 30% of villages are without a village shop, 60% are without a doctors surgery and 70% without regular police presence.

The report says WI members would like to see more police, better public transport, reduced speed limits, traffic-calming measures and adequate parking.

Other prominent demands are for new village shops, post offices, youth facilities and a need to retain a focus for village life and activity.