ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Rural crime: absence or imaginary? An exploration of UK rural policy responses and the rural context.

Sam Hillyard

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 3 - Law Building, Room 104
Date: 2012-07-12 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2012-06-19


Research on rural crime has been relatively marginal on two levels: firstly, urban research exceeds rural work and, secondly, the cultural presumption that the UK’s green and pleasant land is crime-free (Neal and Walters 2007).

Yet recent crime figures show that there has been a significant rise in crime committed in remote areas, notably in agriculture and including individual instances where hundreds of livestock have been rustled (BBC 2011). The situation would therefore seem that there is something distinct about the rural context: in both the forms of crime committed (and possible) as well as policy/ policing responses.

The paper discusses the (a) public profile of rural crime, drawing upon the UK context and policy response to crime in rural contexts. This includes the inaugural national conference organised by ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers); more specific groups such as the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime and; proactive attempts by the farming community themselves (cf. It then finally (b) draws upon ethnographically orientated fieldwork conducted in one rural, English village to explore the reflections of ‘law and order’ and power offered by residents. This is in contrast to other commentaries and attempts to access and understand rural crime in context (Neal and Walters 2007, Enticott 2011). It therefore offers a small-scale reflection upon private forms (such as self-regulation) of crime regulation and also current notions of rural control, in a wider context of economic recession and State retraction. It ends by raising further questions for research.

British Broadcasting Corporation (2011) ‘Agricultural theft on the rise,’ [accessed 29 November 2011]

Enticott, G. (2011) ‘Techniques of neutralising wildlife crime in rural England and Wales,’ Journal of Rural Studies 27 (2011) 200-208.

Neal, S. and Walters, S. (2007) ‘You can get away with loads because there's no one here': discourses of regulation and non-regulation in English rural spaces.’ GeoForum 38, 2: 252-275.