Major bid to tackle rural crime launched in Scotland

A huge cross-sector body in Scotland has launched a three-year, seven-pronged strategy to combat rural crime.

The strategy was formed by the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (Sparc) – an umbrella group of 16 organisations that was set up in 2015.

It includes police, insurers, farming groups, landowner associations, food, environment and trade bodies.

See also: Tractor owner helps farmer beat scammers

The diverse make-up of the group enables it to tackle crime across every sector linked to the countryside.

Its latest strategy will run until 2022 and the launch document pledges to use a co-ordinated approach that promotes and develops confident crime-resilient rural communities.

And it adds that it will achieve this through prevention measures, intelligence gathering and enforcement using the broad scope of bodies within the group.

Of the 16 organisations that make up Sparc, seven have been charged with spearheading efforts against specific types of crime.

Sparc lead bodies and target crime areas

  • Police Scotland – agricultural vehicle, farm machinery and plant theft
  • British Horse Society– equestrian horse and equipment theft
  • Zero Waste Scotland –fly tipping
  • Forestry and Land Scotland – fuel theft from domestic and commercial sites
  • Historic Environment Scotland – heritage crime, illegal metal detecting and vandalism
  • NFU Scotland – livestock offences theft, attacks and food-chain issues
  • Scottish Land and Estates – poaching and hare coursing

Each organisation has a detailed, published action plan that sets out how its crime area will be tackled and a target success rate.

For example, within Zero Waste Scotland’s fly-tipping target, is the commitment to promote collaboration to catch and prosecute law breakers.

To do this it will co-ordinate an intelligence-gathering effort with success measured by the number of prosecutions achieved.

Similarly, among Police Scotland’s targets for reducing farm machinery theft, is the pledge to disrupt the movement of criminal gangs on Scotland’s roads.

It will work closely with the Rural Watch scheme and employ cutting-edge technology to track criminal movements.

Sparc chairman and Police Scotland chief superintendent John McKenzie said the new initiative recognised the need to tackle rural crime in all its forms.

“The volume of crime in rural communities and environments is often lower than in urban locations.

“But the consequences and impact of an incident or crime committed often has a much deeper, far-reaching impact, both on the victim and community as a whole,” Mr McKenzie said.

Sparc Rural Crime Strategy 2019-22 objectives

  • Develop resilient rural communities through effective partnerships employing holistic, innovative and specialist techniques 
  • Ensure we listen, are visible and understand local and national concerns relating to rural crime
  • Harness the contribution, expertise and knowledge of individuals, communities and relevant partner organisations in public, private and third sector to reduce vulnerabilities
  • Promote and improve rural community cohesion where people feel safer regardless of location.

Sparc tractor visits rural events

Sparc has unveiled a tractor painted in police livery to raise awareness of rural crime and the effort to tackle it.

Supplied by Hamilton Ross Group, the Valtra T174EA Sparc-branded tractor will visit 30 agricultural shows and events to stimulate discussion between the public and farmers. 

Alan Dron, Sparc’s rural crime co-ordinator said: “A key aspect of Sparc is to build confidence and trust among those living, working and enjoying Scotland’s rural communities. 

“And to reassure them that any crime-related issues are taken seriously, acted upon and understood,” Mr Dron said. 

“Attending agricultural events and shows is one way of providing a focal point that can initiate positive discussion about how others can help reduce opportunities for crime,” he added.

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