Nigel Sutcliffe, Horse Watch co-ordinator for Cumbria, says the community can play a vital role in reducing crime in rural areas.
ABOUT two years ago I decided to take up horse riding after years of onlooking and never doing anything about it and at times telling myself that, at more than 50, I was too old now to start learning to ride. How wrong I was.
Nowadays I ride regularly and can even claim to have been over one or two showjumps.
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How well I ride is another story and one probably better told by those who teach me at Bigland Hall.
Since taking up horse riding, I found myself wanting to be more and more involved and over time have become involved in British Eventing in Cumbria and working at various horse trials.
In July 2013 I became a police volunteer with the role of supporting the ‘Cumbria Community Messaging’ system within the Kendal area.
As a watch assistant I had a particular interest in ‘Horse Watch’ and became horse watch co-ordinator. What is ‘Horse Watch’ I hear you say?
It is something I became involved in setting up with the police after realising our county did not actually have such a scheme.
The aim is to offer advice and guidance to all those involved in equestrian pursuits - no matter how large or small their roles – on the best way to ensure they don’t get an unwelcome call from equine criminals and how best to protect their property.
Crimes against the equine community in Cumbria are relatively rare, but 2013 did see an increase.
In South Cumbria alone since the start of 2013 there have been 20 horse-related crimes to the value of about £15,000.
At the beginning of April we publicised the scheme at an event at Bigland Hall and later at Blackdyke Riding Centre at Carlisle, in a bid to engage the equine community and encourage them to participate in the scheme.
Policing rural areas is very challenging and we need the community’s help.
Rural crime is on the increase and the fact that rural communities are often isolated and the price commanded by animals and associated equipment is very high, makes such criminal activity lucrative.
Criminals will often travel the length and breadth of the county to steal and then dispose of their ill-gotten gains.
Members of the community who join Horsewatch will gain access information, such as incident and crime alerts and specific crime prevention advice.
So what can those in the equine community do to better protect themselves against crime?
An obvious method is to take photographs of your horse from every angle and keep the photos in a safe place. This will assist police if your horse is stolen.
Keep an inventory of all your tack and keep it updated. Make a note of where it is security marked.
Paint your vehicle registration on the roof of trailers or horseboxes. Place signs up saying you have security measures in place at your stable and that your horse and tack is security marked.
These are just a few but often forgotten measures people can take to protect their property.
Policing rural areas cannot be the task of the police alone. Communities are the radar for the police and can provide information from which the police can act.
Anyone interested in joining Horsewatch can do so in conjunction with Cumbria constabulary, by registering to receive free crime and incident alerts through the Cumbria community messaging system.
By doing so they are entitled to receive discounted security products, which will help reduce the risk of victimisation.
For further information about Horsewatch or Cumbria community messaging contact: Nigel Sutcliffe by Email - firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/nigel.sutcliffe.9440
Alternatively, you can contact Andy Baines (safer & stronger communities manager) by email email@example.com