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 County Durham and Darlington sees 23% reduction in rural crime


​When an elderly man became stranded in the Dales with only a 1990 edition of the AA and an old phone, the police and community came together to locate him.

The man, who was in his 70s, had broken down at around 3pm on August 4, near High Force, in Upper Teesdale.

And despite the best efforts of the recovery company, the man had still not been located as it began to get dark.

The police were called and after establishing that the man did not have a smartphone with the capacity to use the What3Words location app, officers reached out to the RuralWatch network of residents through their dedicated WhatsApp group.

With the weather changing and the stranded driver reporting he was starting to get cold, the race was on to locate the vehicle.

And thanks to the expert knowledge of a local farmer, the man was found near High Force and taken to safety.

It comes as figures from the National Farmers Union Mutual (NFU) reveal County Durham and Darlington experienced a 23% reduction in rural crime in 2019, with rural crime costing £434,883 last year, compared to £563,248 in 2018. Across the whole of the UK last year, rural crime cost £54.3million.

Inspector for the Dales, Ed Turner, said: “The annual crime report that the NFU Mutual have recently released accurately captures how much rural crime costs.

“I am delighted that Durham Constabulary’s policing area has seen a significant 23% reduction - one of the biggest in the UK.

“Sadly, crime still occurs where isolated rural communities are often targeted. We will continue to work closely with victims and partners to reduce this even further.

“Credit must be given to the dozens of RuralWatch volunteers whose support and vigilance help to make rural communities such a safe place to live and work.

“We have always worked closely with residents across the Dales and the WhatsApp group with our Ruralwatch members is proof of how well we can work together.

“We are glad the gentleman was found safe and thanks go to the people of the Dales for providing that vital piece of information.”

Chris Walsh, Rural Insurance Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “We welcome the news that County Durham didn’t experience the rural crime increases felt across the rest of the UK. The cost of rural crime in the county dropped by over 20% from 2018 to 2019, bucking the national trend of a nearly 9% rise.

“NFU Mutual’s rural theft figures are used by police forces to help them understand rural crime on their patch and plan rural police responses, as well being used to support rural watch schemes. Together, we continue to work hard to stem the tide. There’s no doubt that organised criminal gangs are targeting our countryside again and these figures would be much higher if it weren’t for the efforts of Durham Constabulary, along with improved farm security measures such as trackers for tractors and quads, and improving community engagement through social media and instant messaging groups.

“However, rural crime continues to have a devastating impact on our farmers and rural communities and we must remain vigilant and support our neighbours. Rural crime is like a wave, as organised criminality spreads through our villages, farms and rural towns, affecting everyone in the countryside. As there are concerns for the months ahead when the economic impact of Coronavirus begins to bite, we urge rural communities to stay alert.”

Acting Police, Crime and Victims' Commissioner, Steve White, said: “I am delighted with Durham’s performance according to the most recent National Crime Report by the NFU.

“This illustrates the hard work and dedication of the Neighbourhood Policing Team in Durham Constabulary’s rural areas.

“The fact that Durham have some of the lowest levels of rural crime, is testament to the force and their commitment to make our rural communities safer than ever.

“However, it is important to recognise that rural crime still has an impact in the force area.

“With one of my key priority areas being to ‘improve community safety in rural areas’, we will continue to tackle this in a dedicated and innovative fashion, in order to protect our rural communities.”