As anyone who lives rurally will know, a big part of feeling safe is about help being there when you need it. When it's not you can feel completely isolated, and that makes instances of theft, vandalism and intimidation all the more frightening.
That's certainly been the case for some of our local farmers around Maidstone recently, with 101 calls going unanswered and police response times well above what they should be.
That's why back in January I hosted a joint roundtable with my fellow Maidstone MP, Helen Grant, to put these concerns to local police. After listening to residents' stories the police agreed to a number of steps to improve the situation - and we agreed to meet up again in six months to see how things have changed.
Fast forward to last Friday, and Helen and I were joined by farmers, councillors, the NFU, local police, and our Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott at Sutton Road Police Station in Maidstone to hear an update.
Firstly, it was great to hear that rural crime has been added to Kent Police's Control Strategy for the first time. This sets out their operational priorities for prevention, intelligence and enforcement, and the decision shows a real willingness to make things better.
I was also really encouraged to hear that every ward in the county will now be given its own named officer. This neighbourhood policing model should be up and running by the start of next year, and will mean local communities always having someone they can call on if needed.
The Rural Crime Taskforce has also been expanded, 101 call are being answered faster, and Kent Police have hired 300 more officers to local policing teams.
Part of the reason they've been able to do this is because of the 20,000 more officers on our streets since 2019 - a manifesto commitment the Government hit back in March. Here in Kent we've exceeded that target, with 4,200 officers on the beat - the most in our history.
Amazingly in the UK as a whole crime is down 50% since 2010 - a huge success but something we can improve on even further with all these new officers.
Helen and I have also agreed to do our bit here in Westminster too. We're going to meet with the Home Office to discuss reclassifying catapults as offensive weapons, and the Farming Minister to talk about the impact of rural crime more broadly. This is on the back of higher penalties for fly-tipping which have recently been announced, and a new bill to help prevent the theft of farm vehicles.
Taken together this is a huge amount of action, and a big win for our rural communities. They deserve to feel safe and supported, and I'm going to keep working to make sure they do.