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Rise in farm theft sparks rural crime wave warning

September 12, 2017 by  
Filed under News & Business

farm security

A surprise increase in farm theft has sparked fears that East Anglia faces a rural crimewave.

The cost of rural theft has risen sharply during the first half of 2017 – despite a 4% drop last year. Early theft claims statistics for the first half of this year show a sharp rise nationally of over 20%, according to NFU Mutual’s 2017 Rural Crime Report.

The rural insurer said the figures raised concerns that a new rural crime is hitting the countryside.

Being “staked out” is the biggest worry for country people, followed closely by longer police response times in rural areas, it said.

Criminals continue to target Land Rovers, quad bikes, tractors, tools and livestock despite increased security on farms. The report reveals that the cost of rural crime to the UK economy fell by 4% to £39.2m in 2016 as farmers turned their farmyards into fortresses against.

Successful initiatives involving police forces, NFU Mutual and other organisations also contributed to the fall, it said. But East Anglia was one of the regions to record an increase in rural crime during 2016, with farm theft costs rising by 3.7% to £5.6m.

NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Tim Price said: “The sharp rise in the first half of  2017 is deeply worrying. Countryside criminals are becoming more brazen and farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment.

Fortresses

Farmers were having to turn farmyards into fortresses to protect themselves, said Mr Price. “They are using tracking devices on tractors, video and infra-red surveillance in their farmyards and even DNA markers to protect sheep from rustlers.”

Mr Price said NFU Mutual had invested over £1m to tackle rural crime – including working with police. “When police, farmers and other rural organisations tackle rural crime in an organised way these schemes can be extremely effective,” he said.

Rural crime remains a priority for the region’s police and crime commissioners – including in Norfolk, where police control room staff take part in regular training sessions to ensure they have the correct expertise needed to advise officers or farmers.

Following a recent training day, control room superintendent Malc Cooke said: “Control room staff will most likely be the first contact point for our rural community when they want to discuss policing issues.

“In order to improve the service we provide, and to make sure we better capture the information officers need us to, we felt it important to give all our staff the chance to take part in the training, and I know our staff got a lot out of the day.”

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