March 2019 Newsletter from John Howell MP for Henley

Crime has been in the news this month. Some specific crimes that shock us all and types of crime too. In this constituency rural crime has long been a problem and it was good to see the police have a ‘Rural Crime Week’ at the beginning of the month. This was a week to draw attention to the problem of rural crime which is often misunderstood and goes unreported. It can impact on insurance premiums, food prices and damage local communities not to mention the damage to livelihood and the emotional impact on victims.

Rural crime tends to fall into one of four categories – agricultural, equine, wildlife and heritage. It can also fall under environmental crime, which covers illegal waste dumping, fly tipping, polluting watercourses and land.

Agricultural crime covers working farms, farm machinery, farm buildings and smallholdings. Offences include theft of equipment or fuel, damage to property and livestock worrying. In similar vein equine crime covers working stables and equestrian centres and includes offences like tack theft and livestock worrying. Wildlife crime includes hare coursing, poaching and interfering with protected species and heritage crime is an offence which ‘harms the value of England’s heritage assets and their settings to this and future generations.’ This can include offences like lead theft from churches, damage to ancient monuments and illegal metal detecting. Rural crime is indeed wide reaching and has been on my agenda in work with our farmers and the police for some time.

Knife crime has hit the news headlines too with fatal attacks. The Home Secretary is looking closely at this and it is interesting to look at crime statistics to see the fluctuations in different types of crime over time. Knife crime has increased – but it is not a new problem. In the Thames Valley Region this crime has doubled in the past five years. Only last Autumn when police forces across the country had a Knife Crime Awareness Week, during which there was a knife amnesty, over 100 knives were handed in within the Thames Valley Police area. Inevitably the issue of funding has been raised and it is right to question this. However as one BBC reporter pointed out this week it is not clear that money alone will solve the problem.

When an Urgent Question was raised in the House of Commons on this issue on 7th March I asked the Minister what role MPs can play in this process so that we are not just observers of the problem but participants in seeking solutions. The Minister supported the suggestion and agreed to look at how MPs can help promote the message against knife-carrying in their constituencies, As a start she suggested that we could help with social media in promoting the #knifefree social media campaign. This provides all sorts of information about what someone can do if worried about a young person or if a young person wants help and advice. Social media is a concern as its use can dramatically change the speed in which a trivial dispute escalates into violence. Within minutes rival gangs can goad each other into action.

I meet regularly with our local police Superintendent and both rural and knife crime will be high on the agenda at my next meeting. However I am fully aware that many constituents will be concerned that one crime is not overly prioritised to the detriment of other crimes that affect us. Balance is important and this is a key task for our police when setting their priorities.

If there is an issue that concerns you please do let me know. you can email me at howelljm@parliament.uk or write to me at the House of Commons (House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA) or my constituency office (PO Box 84, Watlington, OX49 5XD).

If you would like to know more about my work on behalf of the Government and the Constituency please do look at my website which is regularly updated. The address is www.johnhowellmp.com. Further details of the work of Parliament is available on the parliament website at www.parliament.uk. As always, I am interested to hear constituent’s views on the proposals before the House.

If you would like to receive my periodic electronic newsletters and briefings on specific issues, please email me at asking to be subscribed. You can also follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/JohnHowellOxfordshire or on twitter @JHowellUK