Epping Forest District Council`s Safer Communities Officer Paul Gardener and Epping Forest Police District Crime Reduction Officer Tony Ellis have been working together to improve policing in rural areas. This is as a result of the National Farmers` Union County Chairperson expressing concerns to the Chief Constable regarding policing priorities towards rural crime.
One action as a result of those concerns was for an email family to be established to exchange information between members about current crime trends and suspicious persons. This now 90-strong group has gone on to form a Neighbourhood Action Panel (NAP) to discuss and resolve rural crime issues – the Prime Minister mentioned the initiative in a recent speech as good practice.
At one of the NAP meetings, a farmer drew attention to a current trend that has become a national debate in some of the shooting magazines. People who are legitimately shooting on land have been approached by trespassers on that land. When asked to leave, the trespasser has reported to the Police that they were threatened by a man with a gun, meaning, in some cases, that the shooter has been arrested and his weapons confiscated solely on the word of the trespasser.
The Police and the Safer Communities Team, in consultation with the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and Mick Fidgeon the Head of Essex Police Firearms Licensing Department produced guidelines for shooters which, if followed, would protect them from false allegations. The guidelines will be circulated to every Police Firearms Department in Britain recommending that they be adopted nationally. They will also be taken to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) with the suggestion that ACPO and BASC work together to expand them. Epping Forest Safer Communities Partnership has supported the initiative by funding the production of leaflets and posters, which will be distributed to shooters through shooting schools, firearms dealers, retail farming outlets and shooting syndicates.
Epping Forest Police Inspector Craig Carrington said: We were asked by the members of the NAP to come up with a plan of action, which would help protect legitimate shooters from falling victim to mischievous allegations. Paul and Tony have worked hard on this initiative and the result is a document which contributes nationally to resolving the problem. This has been a Partnership project with a number of other agencies contributing towards the final product and shows the value of working together with the community to resolve problems.
Caroline Wiggins Epping Forest District Council Community Safety Manager said: “The Farmers` NAP has highlighted a very real concern with the potential to have serious consequences and I am pleased the Safer Communities Partnership has been able to support this worthwhile initiative.”