Posted 11 December 2015
For the RSRG, the seminar was very much about what we are about – linking people and organisations with good practice and current research in this dynamic topic.”
Business owners, police, students, researchers and more packed out the inaugural seminar of the Rural Security Research Group (RSRG) on Wednesday.
Held at and organised by Harper Adams University, the event covered a variety of topics including rural crime myths and truths, property marking, fake pesticides, human trafficking and domestic violence.
Organiser Dr Richard Byrne, senior lecturer at the university, specialising in Food Security and Livelihoods, said: “We have had some really positive feedback from participants. Not only have they improved their current knowledge of the diversity of rural crime issues, they have also engaged in some really useful networking, which can only be beneficial to tackling rural crime issues.
“For the RSRG, the seminar was very much about what we are about – linking people and organisations with good practice and current research in this dynamic topic.”
First to present was Kreseda Smith, doctoral researcher at Harper Adams, fresh from a study tour of Australia. Kreseda started with the myths - such as rural areas not having much crime or crime in rural areas being a modern problem, as well as discussing changes to rural society that might result in increased crime, such as the increase in visitors through tourism and the mobility of people between rural and urban areas.
Tony Granger, managing director of SmartWater presented the impressive results the property marking product has had in preventing, detecting and resolving theft from rural businesses, particularly farms. SmartWater is now working with Harper Adams to investigate the use of smart water on sheep. After it is painted on to a product, smart water is invisible to the naked eye but can be viewed under UV lights and can be coded to trace items back to their owners.
Chris Sambrook, doctoral researcher, discussed the organised crime dimension of Counterfeit pesticides. Asked how to tell if a product is a fake he reminded people to act if something doesn't seem right. "If it's a deal you weren't expecting to get, even if it's not cheaper, or if something doesn't look or smell right and it has been used on land, you should contact Defra," he urged, pressing home the need for agencies to work together to tackle this growing problem.
Dr Shahrzad Fouladvand, University of Hull, shone light on the use of human trafficking to support UK cannabis farms. Andrew Booton followed with rural resilience – particularly topical following the flooding in Cumbria. Again, a strong theme coming through was for agencies to work together more closely to support rural communities.
In a lively presentation, Sergeant Rob Taylor, North Wales Police, shared his experiences from the front line. His team is dedicated to rural crime and, working closely with Natural Resources Wales, has dramatically reduced rural crime rates in their region. Sgt Taylor advocated the use of Twitter to both report crime and to deter criminals.
Dr Helen Baker, Edge Hill University spoke on children and domestic violence in rural areas. This presentation returned to another common theme of the day, about crime in rural areas often being “hidden” both by physical location and by the tight knit nature of communities.
The RSRG is an interdisciplinary team brought together to help identify and address emerging risks to the rural economy, food chain and society from such diverse global threat as crime, conflict, food chain fraud and malfeasance.
The group offers a point of contact for information, advice and expertise, highlighting and demonstrating best practice within the rural community and beyond.