The survey finds that rural communities are “living on the edge – in fear of crime, unhappy with the police and feeling isolated and vulnerable”.
Half of the rural businesses surveyed said crime has a moderate or great impact on their lives, while 60% are fairly or very worried about becoming a victim of crime.
Thousands of responses were received from residents and businesses in the South East, including 1,451 responses in the Sussex police force area, 756 in Kent, 421 in Hampshire, 421 in Surrey and 408 in Thames Valley.
CLA South East Regional Director Robin Edwards said: “The results of the latest national crime survey are worrying but confirm the hard reality of how people who live and work in the countryside view rural crime.
“The findings chime with what we are regularly told by our members across the South East who speak of feeling isolated and that police responses to their calls and concerns are often not taken seriously enough.
“We meet regularly with police forces, and while understanding that police budgets are tight we will continue to push for a level of investment and resource in rural policing that better reflects the seriousness of the criminal activity that takes place in the countryside.”
Three years on from the first survey, the 2018 results – from more than 20,000 people – show that the perception of policing in rural communities is poor, and much worse than in urban areas. Only 27 per cent of respondents say their local police is doing a good job – 11 per cent lower than when the same question was asked in 2015 and lower than the national figure from the Crime Survey of England and Wales which finds 62 per cent rate the police in their area as good or excellent.
In terms of the most common concerns, 57 per cent of respondents said they had seen evidence of fly-tipping in the past year, topping the list of offences, with speeding second at 32 per cent.
The survey was commissioned by the National Rural Crime Network which is made up of 30 Police and Crime Commissioners from across the country.
The network has produced 10 recommendations as a result of the survey, including a need for Chief Constables to change the policing of rural communities, a call for putting more focus on farmers and a requirement to make it easier to report crimes.
Julia Mulligan, Chair of the National Rural Crime Network and Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said: “These results are stark and worrying. Crime is up. Anger is up. Frustration is up. Trust is down. Those rating the police as good is down. With 10.3 million people living in rural areas, these are trends we can no longer ignore.
“Every decision affecting national policing moving forwards, from funding to safety and security, has to be set against the findings of this report. This report needs to be listened to in the future when decisions on funding are being made, we can no longer continue to see funding being sucked from rural areas to urban. It simply isn’t good enough and politicians need to sit up and listen.”
Research was carried out between 18 April and 10 June, with a total of 20,252 responses received from across England and Wales.