Farmers count the cost of a surge in rural crimes
Farmers have seen a surge in fly-tipping, trespass, hare coursing and theft this year with the impact being more costly in the East Midlands than any other region of England and Wales.
The surge in rural crime was revealed by the latest national rural crime survey conducted by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), who say such rural offences are costing farming businesses thousands of pounds.
Hundreds of farmers took part in the survey and they made it clear they wanted to see more police resources put into tackling these issue in the countryside.
In the East Midlands, more than 150 farmers and growers responded with nearly half - 45 per cent - experiencing one crime or more last year.
And crime cost farmers in this region, on average, more than £7,600 - the next nearest being the West Midlands at £5,463.
The survey also showed that security at regional farm businesses has been beefed up with East Midlands farmers splashing out, on average, more than £5,500 on crime prevention and security.
As well as the usual lines of communication with police officers, 28 per cent of farmers revealed they were turning to mobile phone WhatsApp groups to report rural crime and pass on intelligence - although 78 per cent said they did not have regular contact with the police other than when reporting incidents.
The survey was conducted by phone and online by the NFU’s in-house research team to help assess the level of rural crime, ahead of the police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections on May 6.
James Peck, NFU East Midlands communications adviser, said: “Rural crime remains a blight on the countryside.
“We are concerned, but sadly not surprised, that so many of our members have been affected.
“However, the survey also shows the rural community is fighting back, introducing additional security measures to farms and working more closely with the police.
“Many members appreciate the response they receive from the police on rural crime but feel that rural teams are under-funded and under-resourced.
“We do work closely with the police in our area and have seen some excellent results from their respective rural crime teams and more than half, 55%, of those who took part in the survey said they did not experience any crime in 2020.”
The survey revealed that 60 per cent had reported the most recent incident to the police but farmers said they were less likely to report trespass, fly-tipping and cyber-crime.
A lack of police response, the crime being too minor and the time it took to report a crime were the top three reasons why respondents said they did not flag up incidents with officers.
Mr Peck added: “Crimes like hare coursing, fly-tipping, dog attacks on livestock and theft of large and small machinery have left rural residents feeling more vulnerable.
“They also have knock-on effects on farm businesses.
“Despite this, rural areas continue to receive lower levels of police funding, per head of population, than urban areas.
“We will be using the survey findings in our discussions with Police and Crime Commissioner candidates to help ensure rural policing receives the resources it needs, and rural communities deserve.”
The NFU is asking all PCC candidates to recognise the severity of the issue and commit to prioritising rural crime as a strategic objective in their Police and Crime Plan.
The NFU rural crime survey was carried out online and by phone this year across 10 areas of England and Wales, between 21 January 21 and March 16. The Rural Services Network estimated that in 2018/19 rural areas received £167.01 per head of population in police funding compared to £206.20 in urban areas – equivalent to a 23.5 per cent difference.
Melton MP, Alicia Kearns, says she is committed to doing what she can to tackle rising instances of criminal offences being committed in the countryside around the borough and in Rutland.
She told the Melton Times: “I’ve made tackling rural crime a priority, and secured a debate on Organised Rural Crime almost as soon as I was elected in order to make the case to Ministers that rural crime needs to be treated as exactly that – organised crime by criminal gangs.
“I was very sorry to read the results of the latest NFU Survey. I follow the NFU rural crime survey every year and have spoken to local farmers extensively about this issue. In Parliament I have focused on fly tipping, agricultural vehicles theft, and hare coursing, and called for specific training on rural crime for 111 and 999 staff to improve the response residents receive.
And Mrs Kearns would like to see police target more resources into dealing with the issue, adding: “Frustratingly, we do not even have a Rural Crime Strategy for Leicestershire and Rutland, which is why on May 6th I hope residents will elect a Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner who will give rural crime the focus it needs and we deserve.
“The NFU should be praised for conducting this survey every year and keeping this vital issue on the national agenda. We must better tackle rural crime in whatever form it takes.”