Spike in countryside criminal damage in Leicestershire and Rutland
Police are appealing to the public to treat the countryside with more respect after incidents of criminal damage across Leicestershire and Rutland, involving farm property, land and livestock, doubled during the coronavirus pandemic.
The new crime figures are being linked to rural areas and beauty spots being popular with people walking their dogs, meeting friends and taking their daily exercise during the national lockdowns.
Between April 2020 and March 2021, Leicestershire Police received 121 reports of damage to farms, farmhouses, stables and fields, compared to 61 the previous year and 67 between 2018 and 2019.
Farmers have reported damage to gates, fences and hedges, plus vehicles being driven on farmers land, while dog attacks on livestock have increased from 11 to 18.
Insp Siobhan Gorman said: “Visitors to the countryside have increased as a way of getting out during lockdown and more people have bought dogs which need exercising.
“We want people to enjoy the beautiful rural areas of Leicestershire and Rutland but we are asking people to please respect the rules of the countryside after all that is how farmers make their living.
“If you are walking your dog in the countryside and are unfamiliar with the area, always keep your dog on the lead as there could be sheep and cattle nearby that you aren’t aware of.
“Sheep worrying is an offence and you could be liable for prosecution and heavy financial penalties if your dog is involved in an incident of this type.
“Always plan your route, stick to footpaths and please abide by any signs or rules, don’t remove them, or deface them, as they are there for a reason and please don’t remove or damage fencing.
“Farmers work hard to maintain their boundaries to ensure their animals remain enclosed and safe.”
Anyone who witnesses such incidents in the countryside can report online or call officers on 101.
A number of websites such as www.footpathmap.co.uk inform where footpaths are and outline the difference between a footpath, bridleway and byway.