DARREN Rawlings’ new beat is certainly a world away from his last job.

Seconded to the European Union Police, Insp Rawlings spent two years based in Kabul, working as an anti-corruption mentor, advisor and trainer for the Ministry of Justice in Afghanistan.

During his tour of duty, he received a medal after leading hundreds of people to the safety of a bunker after he was caught up in a 14-hour gun battle in Kabul.

Life is certainly going to be different in his new role – spearheading the fight against rural crime in Basingstoke and Deane – and he is looking forward to what is another varied policing challenge.

Insp Rawlings, 42, took up the role of leading rural sector policing in Basingstoke and Deane in November, and he is now in charge of policing a patch that stretches from Upton Grey in the east to St Mary Bourne and Whitchurch in the west.

Reflecting on his recent past and present roles, Insp Rawlings said: “It could not be more different – the roles are worlds apart. Before Afghanistan, I had been a detective for 10 years so I have not been in uniform for a decade.”

Insp Rawlings has certainly been busy since he took up his new role. A recent operation, with roads policing officers, led to the arrest of four men for siphoning fuel from lorries parked in lay-bys on the A34 near Whitchurch.

His priorities for the year include tackling anti-social behaviour, particularly in Whitchurch and Tadley, burglaries at garages, houses and sheds, and thefts of farming equipment.

Insp Rawlings said: “I think it’s a huge challenge because rural policing is never really highlighted, as the vast majority of crimes are committed in the urban area of Basingstoke.

“The quality of life for victims of crime in rural areas can sometimes be affected more than in urban areas, because they may be more isolated and items stolen in burglaries may be more valuable.

“But the main message is that rural policing is working better. I have got a good number of resources which are being deployed more effectively than a few years ago.”

He urged people in rural areas to help the police by remaining vigilant, and to contact the police if they see anything suspicious, like vehicles that do not fit in with the rural setting.