A spotlight on the North West Leicestershire Rural Team
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Despite the pandemic, the North West Leicestershire Rural Team have been out in force, keeping their communities safe.
PCSO Tony Gallagher and PC Emma Holmes form part of the rural team in the North West of the county and a huge part of their role is engaging with the rural residents, getting to know the farming community and understanding their concerns.
This part of their role has been tricky this year, due to Covid-19, however, the pair have still been working hard to combat issues that affect North West Leicestershire, this could be anything from hare coursing and poaching, theft of equipment and fuel, damage to property and livestock as well as lead thefts from churches.
PC Emma Holmes joined Leicestershire Police as a special constable in 2010, she then worked as a PCSO (police community support officer) before becoming a PC in 2013. Emma is now one of the forces wildlife officers, she said: “Rural crime is an issue for large areas of the country, it can often go unreported which then impacts on insurance premiums, food prices and damages local communities.
“We are continually working to enhance our relationship with the rural communities to ensure that crimes are reported and dealt with as quickly as possible. Ordinarily we would be holding regular rural crime events, giving us the opportunity to speak with local farmers and residents. These can’t take place in the current climate, however, we’re still working closely with partner agencies and neighbouring forces to develop cross border intelligence and visit hot spot areas.”
Harriet Ranson, NFU (National Farmers Union) County Adviser, who works closely with the rural team said: "Rural Crime is the second highest ‘worry’ for farmers after the impact of Brexit according to an NFU survey, and it’s more than just financial loss caused by theft, sheep attacks, hare coursing and stack fires etc. there’s also the emotional impact.
“Rural crime drives an enormous amount of cost and risk into farm businesses, if an expensive piece of machinery is stolen, this can mean a time sensitive job cannot be completed safely, which is why the close working relationship between Leicestershire Police and rural communities is paramount to ensure farmers can carry on growing food to feed the nation.”
She added: “If you’re out and about enjoying the countryside please abide by the Countryside Code, leave gates as you find them, keep dogs on leads around livestock, and report any suspicious behaviour to the Police.’’
Tony Gallagher has been a PCSO with Leicestershire Police since joining the force in 2003, being part of the very first cohort of PCSOs and the first PCSO in North West Leicestershire, Tony prides himself on the relationship he has within the rural community. He has worked hard to understand the challenges faced by farmers and is constantly finding ways to support them.
A current problem that parts of North West Leicestershire are facing is an issue with off roaders using green lanes in an inconsiderate and often dangerous manner. Green lanes are generally rural trackways, they could be footpaths, bridleways or roads, and can either be on public or private land. In recent months, the off-roading in the area has led to extensive damage, anti-social behaviour (ASB) and in some instances the death of animals.
PCSO Tony Gallagher said: “The irresponsible behaviour of some of the off roaders has meant that horse riders and pedestrians are fearful of using the green lanes. Although travelling down these roads in vehicles or motorbikes is not illegal, everyone should be free to enjoy the green lanes responsibly whether you’re on foot, in a vehicle or horseback.
“To combat this issue, we’re working with a rights of way inspector from the County Council, the ASB team from the North West Leicestershire District Council, local landowners and the British Horse Society to look at how we can make the green lanes a safe space for everyone to enjoy.”
Another issue the team are keen to find a resolution for is fly tipping. This is an ongoing problem for councils and the police up and down the country, but unfortunately numbers have increased in some areas since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns.
The local rural team are working alongside partners, including colleagues from neighbouring forces and the NFU to tackle the issue. Together the partner agencies are looking into ways to prevent fly tipping in the local area, including trialling community initiatives that encourage everyone to do their part to keep the countryside clean.
Tony Gallagher said: “Fly tipping is an issue across the county, not just in the North West, the escalation in people fly tipping is having a real impact on the farming community, in some cases it has prevented agricultural work being carried out and even caused harm to livestock and wildlife.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility to deal with their own waste and rubbish appropriately, if you are looking to employ a business to take your rubbish away for you, please make sure they are a reputable company who will dispose of the rubbish responsibly.”