The increase in total policing is the result of an agreement between Kent Police and the county council to invest nearly two and three quarter million pounds in a Rural Partnership Initiative. It is believed to be the first project of its kind in the country.
Through the scheme, Kent Police will commit£1.68m to 24 rural patrol vehicles and provide 50 police officers, 16 of whom will be absolutely new and additional officers, to be dedicated to rural matters.
Kent CC will put in£1.06m to provide an additional and new 12 rural parish liaison constables, eight patrol vehicles and a pilot scheme of 12 rural community wardens to be trained by the police.
The Kent Association of Neighbourhood Watch Schemes has been fully consulted on the new initiative and has agreed the new wardens can access and utilise its facilities , including a comprehensive communication system.
Chairman of the West Kent Neighbourhood Watch Association, Michael Nicholson, who represented Neighbourhood Watch at the county council's cabinet meeting, said: 'I am very much in support of this, it releases additional resources and raises the visibility of policing. In West Kent alone we have 27,000 households covered by Neighbourhood Watch and 470 co-ordinators and that information network will be available to the new initiative.'
Details were outlined in a report to the county council's cabinet today by social services director, Peter Gilroy, who said: 'This is an important new project, which supported by our other initiatives will make a big difference. Surveys confirm that fear of crime is one of the most important factors adversely affecting quality of life. Communities and businesses cannot thrive where people feel vulnerable, whether on the streets, in their homes or at their place of work.'
The report outlined other work being done to combat crime including the Safe Schools project which now involves 110 schools across Kent. The project won the National Crime and Community Safety Awards 2000, run by the Home Office and Crime Concern.
* Kent CC's political leaders debate the proposals here.