Labour vows to stamp out crime in rural areas with new strategy

Labour has promised a rural crime strategy as the party pointed to research showing the crime rate surging faster in rural areas than in urban ones.

Sir Keir Starmer said countryside communities blighted by “organised crime, rural theft and antisocial behaviour” will be “protected” under the plan to “stamp out crime and disorder” in those areas.

The strategy would see increased police patrols in rural areas, tougher measures to clamp down on antisocial behaviour and stronger laws to prevent farm theft, fly-tippers and local drug enforcement teams.

The crime rate in rural areas has risen by 32% since 2011, compared to 24% for urban areas, according to research commissioned by Labour.

This includes a total rise of almost 130,000 reported offences, including almost 30,000 more offences of criminal damage and arson, it said.

Labour leader Sir Keir said: “Our countryside towns and villages are part of our national identity, but also home to millions. My Labour party knows the challenges they face, including crime rates surging faster than in urban areas, with organised crime, rural theft and antisocial behaviour blighting communities.

“As chief prosecutor I got to know all corners of our country, and committed to delivering justice for people in all communities. With my changed Labour Party, Britain’s rural communities will be protected with the first ever government-backed rural crime strategy.”

Under a Labour government, there would also be cross-government coordination between the Home Office, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the National Crime Agency to tackle rural organised crime gangs, Sir Keir said.

“Labour will stamp out crime and disorder in our countryside communities and bring respect back to Britain.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused the Government of ‘abandoning rural communities’ (Jeff Moore/PA)

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Across the country, the Conservatives are abandoning rural communities and letting organised criminals operate with impunity.

“Labour will crack down on these criminals, establishing a dedicated Rural Crime Strategy to restore order to our rural areas, backed up with tougher powers and increased rural police patrols. Labour will take action to keep our rural communities safe.”

Policing minister Chris Philp hit back at Labour’s announcement, saying it was “just another tired, toothless tweak around the edges”.

“The facts show the reality is those living in Labour-run areas are 40% more likely to be a victim of crime than those living in Conservative-run areas,” he said.

“Labour’s only idea is a fund for police that is ten times smaller than our Police Uplift Programme investment. What’s more they have rejected our tough plans, like when they voted against the Police, Crime and Sentencing Act which puts violent criminals in prison for longer. Or when they voted against increasing police budgets four years in a row.

“Since March 2020, crimes against rural households have dropped by 15 per cent and overall crime is down by 55 per cent since 2010. Our plan to tackle rural crime is working, and we remain fully committed to tackling it which is why we set up the National Rural Crime Unit last year to help forces secure specialist operational support, develop bespoke approaches and share best practice.”