In a bid to connect effectively with hard-to-reach communities in remote areas like Purbeck, the rural crime team from Dorset Police have recorded a series of podcasts.
The team of three police officers produced the short audio programmes at a professional facility in Bournemouth and they cover topics like livestock attacks, machinery theft and poaching.
There’s also an episode on mental health as farmers have a high rate of suicide.
Rural crime is often overlooked but the consequences can be serious
“Looking at ways to get our message across”
PC Claire Dinsdale, who heads up the team, said:
“We were looking at ways to get our message across to the rural community as it is a notoriously difficult group to reach.
“Podcasts are becoming more and more popular and we thought our particular area of policing would be a good match.”
The podcasts called Country Cast are aimed particularly at farmers but they are accessible to the general public via popular podcast websites.
The remoteness of farming communities makes them particularly vulnerable
“All you’ve got is a home video of the crime”
According to the rural crime team, some country folk can be reticent about calling the police but good information is key to not only catching criminals but preventing crime in the first place.
“CCTV, for instance, is only going to be any good if you can identify the people in it and where they’ve gone.
“Otherwise, all you’ve got is a home video of the crime.”
Instead, the team encourages marking or electronic tagging of plant and machinery. A wireless intruder alarm can alert the farmer when thieves are actually on the property before they have a chance to take anything.
PC Dinsdale comes from a farming background
Claire comes from a family of farmers and says she could ‘whistle to dogs around sheep’ before she could talk.
PC Seb Haggett, by contrast, came from the Met Police, and admits he’s had a lot to learn but brings a different set of experiences. He can be heard in one of the podcasts explaining:
“I’m really passionate about tackling organised crime in rural communities because ultimately that’s what’s affecting people.”
Robo Crop – the original police tractor – complete with flashing blue lights
“Parallel park a great big tractor”
The team have been through a number of vehicles over the years. Former team member PCSO Tom Balchin came up with the idea of a police tractor with flashing blue lights.
Claire recalls the stress of moving it at a county show:
“Trying to parallel park a great big tractor when you’ve got half the rural community of Dorset watching you with a uniform on!”
A little bit of humour helps in a busy and sometimes difficult job
“More hits that The Beatles”
But they have also had quads bikes and a vehicle which grounded so often on bumpy farm tracks that one farmer joked it must have had ‘more hits underneath than The Beatles’.
They’ve now traded them in for a Ford Ranger and may be looking for another sponsored tractor next year.
The team has to be prepared to tackle all terrains
Claire said there are already plans to record more podcasts with new team member PCSO Chris Mullens, an experienced beat officer from north Dorset, who has now replaced Tom Balchin.
“We’re hoping the podcasts will raise awareness of the problem of rural crime and give people ideas on how best to tackle it, as well as encouraging people to call us if they see anything suspicious.”
Listen to the podcasts
You can tune into the podcasts on PlayerFM website or search for Country Cast by Dorset Police Rural Crime Team, on any of the popular music and podcast websites.