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Rural Crime Reduction

Volume 681: debated on Monday 28 September 2020

We are determined to drive down crime in rural and urban areas, which is why we are recruiting an extra 20,000 police officers and, by the way, investing £85 million in the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure that the criminal justice system can deal with the results.

Will the Minister join me in thanking the Sussex rural crime team, which I long campaigned for and which was set up by police commissioner Katy Bourne in June this year? It is now doing excellent work, protecting our rural communities, farmers and isolated towns and villages in Arundel and South Downs.

I am aware that my hon. Friend has made a huge impact in his constituency since he was elected recently and that this is a result of something that he has campaigned on for some time. I applaud Katy Bourne—who is one of our leading police and crime commissioners and is always innovating—on the establishment of this unit, and I hope that it will make a big difference.

I am reminded with rural crime of that interesting philosophical question: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a crime happens and no one reports it, do the police see it? I urge my hon. Friend to encourage his constituents, particularly in rural areas—we have had a number of questions on rural crime today—to report every single crime, because modern policing is driven by data, and if a crime is not reported, as far as the police are concerned, it probably never happened.

As a Croydon MP and the shadow Policing Minister, I pay tribute to Sergeant Matt Ratana for his years of service in my community. Our community spoke as one on Friday both in our grief, but also in our gratitude for the many years of service from a wonderful officer, who was the very best of us, and we will not forget him.

Community policing is the bedrock of our communities, but it has suffered deep cuts. Those cuts have an acute impact in our rural areas, where vulnerability and isolation can be particularly severe. Only one in 14 crimes leads to court proceedings. Most victims get no justice at all. The Government have overseen a cut in the number of police community support officers by nearly 50%, and there are no plans to replace them. What does the Minister say to the victims of crime who deserve justice but under this Government are just not getting it?

I acknowledge the hon. Lady’s words about the awful events of Friday. I know that it hit home hard in Croydon for her; I think she was due to visit that very custody suite that day or the following day. It was a terrible time, and hopefully justice will follow that awful crime.

On the hon. Lady’s wider point, she and I have had this discussion a number of times over the Dispatch Box. Although repetition is not infrequent in this Chamber, I urge her to reflect on the fact that for the first half of the coalition and then Conservative Government, we were struggling with a difficult financial situation nationally, and crime was falling. That required a different kind of response to the one we see today. She is right to point to the fact that we have seen a rise in crime over the past couple of years, albeit different kinds of crime from those we have seen previously. That is why we are massively increasing police capacity and bringing enormous focus, through the National Policing Board, the Crime Performance Board, which I lead, and the Strategic Change and Investment Board at the Home Office, to the national systemic problems that she raises in the hope that, over the next three years, we can drive them down significantly.