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Julian Sturdy - Strong Voice for York Outer

Julian Sturdy

Member of Parliament for York Outer

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Yorkshire Post column – Why Rural Policing Matters

November 24, 2020

This time last year I was in the midst of campaigning for the 2019 General Election speaking to residents across York Outer about the core policies within Conservative Party manifesto that addressed the issues that matter most to voters.

Earlier this month at Home Office Questions, I asked Priti Patel MP for an update on the key pledge within her remit; namely to hire 20,000 additional police officers across the country by 2023.

In her response, the Home Secretary informed MPs that the Government are ahead of schedule to have the first 6,000 officers in place by March 2021, but my primary focus was to ascertain what these extra police officers mean for rural policing.

So far North Yorkshire Police has been bolstered by an additional 83 officers, bringing the total number of police in our region up to 1,533. By the end of the recruitment process, the force is set to be largest it has ever been, but will everyone see the benefit of this swell in manpower?

For the many rural constituents in York Outer and a vast number of residents across North Yorkshire, there will be a great deal of interest to see if deployment will be focused on the largest population centres or will be used to address gaps in cover for our small towns and villages.

From my inbox, I know that crime has not stopped because of coronavirus. I am regularly updated by parish councillors regarding anti-social behaviour within our community that often cannot be addressed by officers due to other more urgent concerns.

Unfortunately, a long running spate of incidents within my constituency culminated in Robert Wilkinson Primary Academy in Strensall being broken into with damaged caused and theft occurring, at a time when the incredible staff are working to overcome difficulties to ensure our children’s education continues.

Inequality, either perceived or actual, between rural and urban policing has been a long running issue which I have had raised with me since being elected in 2010. There are no easy fixes, especially to tackle the perceived discrepancies, but there is positive news across Britain for rural policing.

Progress is being made and I am confident that we will be able to see results of new policies paired with increased police numbers when the Rural Crime Network next conducts their national survey.

Already the gap between funding per head for rural and urban populations is beginning to close and North Yorkshire Police’s control centre has made improvements to staffing levels allow them to handle more calls than ever before.

Furthermore, plans to deliver our manifesto pledge to criminalise intentional trespass are at consultation stage and when passed into law will give police more power to tackle the root cause of many rural crimes, bringing reassurance to our communities.

Tough action is also being taken on county lines drug gangs that operate across the country, bringing crime to smaller towns from the large cities. Often related violence and disruptions bleeds out into our rural communities as gang members look further afield where there is a perceived lower police presence.

Only in September were thousands of drugs seized in Yorkshire as part of an operation that took 10 per cent of the country’s county lines drug gangs out of operation.

When you examine the numbers related to this police sting – 1,000 people arrested, 18 guns, more than £500,000 in cash and more than £1m worth of Class A drugs seized – it is simply staggering and a testament to the excellent work from police officers.

Ultimately, more still has to be done. Large-scale operations, reforms and improved funding though will always have to be supported by a regular, visible presence on the ground, which is why I felt it was so important to raise the issue of rural policing with the Home Secretary.

As more officers join North Yorkshire Police, I want to see bobbies on the beat in our town and villages to show rural residents that their community’s safety matters.

I would like to extend my gratitude to serving officers and to the new recruits for joining the police force at such a crucial time as we work towards tackling all crime across North Yorkshire.