ONE south west police and crime commissioner (PCC) has made it his mission to help fight against rural crime - and has already increased the rural crime team from just three people to 18. 

David Sidwick became Dorset PCC in 2021, and made sure to put in his policing plan that they would address rural crime. Once elected, he increased the capacity of the rural crime team, set up a Mounted Rural Volunteers scheme and introduced a rural crime website as well as working in partnership with other PCC's to tackle national issues such as lobbying for tougher fly-tipping sanctions. 

David also created the Dorset Partnership Against Rural Crime, which brings together his office, Dorset Police, BCP Council, Dorset Council, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), Cornish Mutual, Dorset Association of Parish and Town Councils (DAPTC), Dorset Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency, Forestry England, Historic England, Kingston Maurward College, the National Trust, Natural England, National Farmers Union (NFU) and NFU Mutual. This partnership is so everyone can work together and share knowledge in a bid to support the rural communities in the area. 

He believes tackling rural crime is important for three reasons: rural criminality is highly organised; crimes are under reported and these crimes have a big effect on their communities. 

"If someone pinches a tractor, it is not for the farmer next door - it will be on a ferry across the channel," he said.

"If someone takes 20 to 30 sheep, it’s not just for their dinner - the sheep are going into the food chain somewhere. All the crimes are highly organised.

"Something so small can be profoundly upsetting in a small villlage. For farmers, it is not just their business that is affected, it is their homes too.

"Alonsgide other PCC's in the south west, we ran a survey and I was really saddened to see that around 50% of people said that rural crimes were not reported, and I think the reason for this is because we hadn't invested enough in rural crime. 

"Since expanding our team, we gave back £1.3million of stolen goods. If anything stopping things like hare coursing and poaching (people do wicked, evil stuff like driving cars at deer) is validating our investment in rural crime."

There are also some key operations set to tackle rural crime, including one which focused on targeting fly-tippers. They have just started Operation Ragwort which targets Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) involved in rural crime. This campaign brings together police all police forces in the south west to tackle crimes such as theft of vehicles and equipment, poaching and hare coursing. 

Dorset Police are also working with nationally with teams across the UK on Operation Galileo to tackle hare coursing and poaching. This is because some criminals will travel hundreds of miles to be involved with these crimes, and so the neighbouring policing teams work together to disrupt and deter cross border criminal activity. 

David has issued advice for farmers to help keep themselves, their livestock and their belongings safe from criminals: 

  • Check your perimiter - hedges, fences and walls - regularly. 
  • Know what you have got - keep a register of animals, tools, vehicles and mark them. 
  • Restrict access where you can - lock gates, add security barriers, lock doors and windows. 
  • Report suspicious activity - it might not look like much, but your report can be linked to someone else's to help catch criminals. 
  • Fit alarms to storage sheds and other buildings. 
  • Think about investing in CCTV and lighting around the farm. 
  • Sign up to Dorset Alert and various watch schemes and share intelligence via Farmwatch. 

David's final words to those who might be thinking of committing rural crime in Dorset were: "You will have seen that Dorset has changed. You will have seen that we are prepared.

"If you come to Dorset and apply your evil trade to communities then Dorset police and the rural team and everyone who cares will be ready to catch you and hopefully put you behind bars."