Faversham and Mid Kent MP, Helen Whately, and Maidstone and the Weald MP, Helen Grant, hosted a roundtable in Chart Sutton to discuss the impact of crime on local farmers.
The meeting, which took place at the Chart Sutton Village Hall last Friday 27th January, brought together local police, Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott, local councillors, and farmers from across Marden, Yalding, Staplehurst, Headcorn, Sutton Valence, Chart Sutton, Leeds and Boughton Monchelsea.
In total around 40 people attended the meeting.
Farmers from across the area have been concerned about the level of crime locally, including theft, trespass, and threatening behaviour – and what they perceived to be an insufficient police response.
Marden and Yalding councillor Claudine Russell, herself a farmer, thought it would be helpful to bring farmers together with police and MPs to agree a way forward, and so the MPs arranged Friday’s roundtable.
At the roundtable farmers from across the area aired their experiences and had their views heard, and a number of actions were agreed by police, MPs, and farmers themselves.
Police will be increasing the number of officers locally, as well as committing to ensuring that each ward has its own named officer. The Rural Task Force will also be expanded, and 101 wait times will be reduced by increasing resources. These actions will benefit the whole local rural community, not just farmers.
MPs will be meeting with Mark Spencer, the Farmer Minister, to raise the wider impact of rural crime on farmers, including mental health and wellbeing. They will also be writing to the Justice Department to explore options for tougher sentences for rural crimes.
Farmers have been told to make sure all crime is reported direct to Kent Police via 999, 101 or online, as well as to always use 999 in a threatening situation.
All parties will be providing updates on these and other actions agreed at a follow up meeting in the summer.
Helen Whately MP comments: “Rural crime can be so tough on local communities. You can feel isolated living in the countryside and it’s really important that police are on hand to help.
“I’ve asked police to do more to support farmers locally, and it was great to hear officers commit to that at our meeting. We’ve agreed a set of actions to go away and work on over the next few months which are good for farmers and the wider community.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe where they live, and that’s why we’re putting more police officers on our streets than ever before – including here in Kent.”
Helen Grant MP comments: “Rural crime has become a serious and persistent blight on the lives and livelihoods of our local farmers, who are the backbone of our rural communities here in the Weald of Kent.
“Incidents of threats and intimidation are commonplace and police responses to 101 and 999 calls are inadequate, particularly when being threatened by a person with a potentially dangerous dog and a catapult loaded with a large ball bearing.
“I will be writing to the Justice department to explore how deterrents can be reinforced and will continue to work closely with stakeholders to crack down on the criminals who cause intimidation, disruption and loss to our farmers.”