THE Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Gwent has welcomed news of a £40,000 investment to help establish a new online network to tackle rural crime.

This week the Home Office announced an investment of £39,200 to establish the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) which aims to act as a collaborative think tank, researching and implementing ways to reduce rural crime.

Mr Johnston and the other 28 Commissioners taking part have also pledged to commit £1,000 per year each for the first two years as part of their localised funding commitments to the project.

Based online, the NRCN will provide information and support for rural communities by encouraging direct interaction between businesses, organisations and the police.

Commissioner Johnston also funds and supports the Online Watch Link (OWL) system which sends out targeted messages via email, phone or SMS alerts about crimes and problems to members who have signed up in communities throughout Gwent. The system, which is heavily supported by Neighbourhood Watch, contains thousands of watches, including Farm Watch.

The appointment of a dedicated and award-winning Gwent Police Farm Watch Coordinator last year has helped increase Farm Watch membership on OWL from 300 to nearly 800 members in just five months. By using Farm Watch to connect with farmers and increasing face to face engagement, rural related crime in Gwent has been significantly reduced by 66 per cent in one year when comparing June 2014 with June 2013.

Mr Johnston, said: “People in rural communities are a special group as they are often isolated and hard to reach. This new project will help break down those barriers and provide us with another weapon in our arsenal to tackle rural crime.

"We have already generated overwhelmingly positive results here in Gwent and I believe this additional tool will help us have more of a joined up approach with other forces, businesses, organisations and communities throughout England and Wales."