Rural Watch Ayrshire calls for more vigilance
Rural Watch, Ayrshire's rural crime fighting initiative, is calling for more vigilance from residents to combat rural crime in Ayrshire as incidents of lawbreaking remain high.
The creation of Strathclyde wildlife crime officer PC Graeme Gordon, Rural Watch is a neighbourhood vigilance scheme which covers the whole of central Ayrshire. Since being launched back in 2007, Rural Watch has proved very successful with local residents and its membership continues to grow - in 2010, 150 members had signed up and today membership stands at 257.
Growing awareness and increased reporting of rural crimes, including wildlife crime, fly tipping and equipment theft, are key aims of the scheme, which has had a positive impact since being established. However, despite making significant inroads and opening up the lines of crime reporting, Rural Watch is calling for more people to get involved in helping clamp down on rural crime in the area and deter criminals.
PC Gordon said: "I'm proud of what has been achieved with Rural Watch since its inception but we all need to remain on our guard and be prepared to report suspicious activity immediately, if we are to keep crime low, and I would urge more rural residents to consider joining the group.
"Much has changed over the last five years in terms of tackling rural crime. When I was appointed Community Officer based in Prestwick, covering the Kyle Ward area, I very quickly realised there was a large rural community to serve as well as the many villages in the ward. I found that the farming community was often forgotten about and that there was a disjointed approach to reporting rural crime. I decided to start up a line of communication within the rural community, for the rural community, with myself as co-ordinator, which resulted in Rural Watch.
"We have had a great number of success stories since the operation began. Perhaps the most dramatic example was when one member reported a number of suspicious looking transit vans visiting their commercial business premises in Mossblown over a period of time. They let me know the registration numbers which I submitted to our intelligence department and we found out that all three vehicles were wanted by the Serious Crime Squad in London. Working together, we can pinpoint the movements of vehicles like these; this alone makes Rural Watch a success.
"I constantly think about the future of Rural Watch and how I want it to change and move forward. I have started to integrate my role as wildlife crime officer into Rural Watch because I want the landowners and farming members to feel they can come to me for advice on wildlife issues including all new legislative guidance. I really hope Rural Watch will continue to grow; as I often say to the members 'strength in numbers'".
Scottish Land & Estates' South West & South East Regional Manager, Teresa Dougall, said: "Many of our regional members have signed up to Rural Watch and are pleased to see it making great strides in raising awareness and in facilitating a concerted approach to tackling wildlife crime in Ayrshire.
"Ayrshire is home to some magnificent countryside and landscapes and there is a huge effort put in to manage and nurture these tremendous assets. Those who attempt to damage them should face the full force of the law and Rural Watch has become a key weapon in the ongoing fight against rural crime."
Rural Watch members receive monthly updates from PC Gordon on crime trends and what to look out for in an attempt to create a vigilance and security conscious community. In return, Rural Watch requires members to report, via email, any suspicious activity on or near their property obtaining registration numbers and colours of vehicles where possible. This helps create intelligence on who, and what, is moving about the area.