An update from the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne OBE ..

As part of my ongoing engagement programme, this week, my office has held online consultations with members of the National Farmers' Union to discuss issues relating to rural crime.

Participants highlighted the need for better methods of effective intelligence-sharing between farmers and the police. They were also keen to see the introduction of a quicker and easy-to-use reporting system which clearly flags up rural crime as a specific crime type.

They reported a recent increase in fly tipping and hare coursing - a probable result of the relatively empty countryside due to lockdown, making it more susceptible to criminal activity - along with the need for better cross-border policing.

Rural Crime Lead, Sergeant Tom Carter, outlined the Force's plans for an expanded rural crime unit with newly recruited police officers trained to handle crimes specific to the countryside and farming communities. He explained there will be more details available to share in the coming weeks.

Mark Chandler, who farms at Petworth, said: 'The six rural PCSOs have already made a real difference to how the Force engages with our farming communities, so to hear that a team of new rural police officers will soon be recruited in Sussex is fantastic news.'

To keep in touch with local communities, my office is also running online consultations with 11 town and parish councils to hear views about policing during lockdown. Taking part in West Sussex are Bramber, Broadbridge Heath, Haywards Heath, Midhurst, Rustington and Selsey. In East Sussex we're speaking to Battle, Lewes, Peacehaven, Polegate and Uckfield.

Yesterday the Government announced that it is well on track to meet its national goal of 6,000 additional officers by March 2021 with online assessment centres allowing forces to continue recruiting safely during the coronavirus outbreak. In Sussex, we are on target to recruit 129 officers by March 2021 from this uplift.

When ‘lockdown’ is lifted and more people are back on the streets we can sadly anticipate an increase in crime, so we need those additional police officers that the public have called for.

The Government’s uplift of 129, accompanied with the increase in officers from local council tax contributions of a further 250, will ensure that Sussex Police have the numbers they need for business as usual and the increased demand of policing safe, social interactions.

Sussex Police have put so much effort into the stay at home campaign over the last five weeks, increasing police presence when needed and always encouraging and explaining social distancing to the public before using enforcement. I want to thank all the officers on the frontline for persevering in these particularly challenging times.

I want to take this opportunity to remind any families living in Sussex with teenagers that my REBOOT programme has teamed up with Active Sussex to provide you all with FREE sport activities that you can do from home via YouTube. These sessions are being generously provided by local community organisations and we are encouraging families to get involved and stay active during the Covid emergency. You can find the details of the schedule of activities available here.