WHEN I tell people that I work as a police officer in the beautiful Ashbourne countryside, their first response is generally to express envy that my beat is so picturesque.
I am, of course, compelled to agree and bless my good fortune that it's a good deal more bucolic than my previous inner city postings in London and Sheffield!
Inevitably, the more waggish acquaintance will drop in a sniggering reference to sheep rustling in an attempt to extract a cheap laugh.
However, I am quick to correct people who seek to trivialise the impact of the theft of livestock and will point out how rural crime can disrupt the lives of people living in more isolated communities.
Making a living from the land nowadays is harder than it has ever been.
Consequently, when livestock is stolen, there can be a devastating effect upon a small business as well as wider ramifications, such as the impact upon blood lines.
This reality extends to other offences committed in rural areas, especially around the theft of trailers, machinery and plant.
Although we have unfortunately seen such offences committed in the last 12 months in the Ashbourne Safer Neighbourhood Areas, the incidents have been comparatively few and within the context of a consistent overall reduction in crime.
Nevertheless, the thefts can have a more detrimental effect upon the victims and the local community than similar offences in a more urban area.
An understandable consequence of this can be the creation of a disproportionately high fear of crime.
I would take this opportunity to once again emphasise that Ashbourne and the surrounding area is a safe place and crime and disorder is comparatively low.
Your local policing team is committed to being a visible and effective presence and responding to local crime and disorder issues.
As much as I would like it, we can't be everywhere and that is why it is important that we as your local police work with you, Neighbourhood Watch and other organisations to make rural crime an even higher-risk, low-return activity for offenders.
Please continue to report suspicious incidents and, if you are a farmer or a smallholder, do get in touch with your Safer Neighbourhood Team us on 101 and ask about Farmwatch and Derbyshire Alert.