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More funding is needed to combat the criminal gangs who are targeting the countryside, say campaigners. Organised criminals – including those linked to the... Funding needed to combat crime in the countryside

More funding is needed to combat the criminal gangs who are targeting the countryside, say campaigners.

Organised criminals – including those linked to the international drug trade – are increasingly preying on rural communities, suggests the latest report commissioned by the National Rural Crime Network.

The report was written by senior criminologist Kate Tudor, of Durham University. Rather than opportunists, many rural criminals were prolific offenders involved in the supply and sale of drugs, she said.

“Essentially, they are entrepreneurs working in the field of illicit business. They are already well grounded in crimes such as drug dealing, but they’re always looking for new and emerging business opportunities.”

Stolen goods

Foreign organised crime networks were also deeply involved in sustaining the UK’s rural crime problem by creating international transportation and disposal routes for goods stolen from the countryside.

Despite the growing threat of crime facing rural people, campaigners say police forces across the UK are treating the problem as a small-scale issue – leaving people in the countryside living in fear.

The Country Land and Business Association said offenders were intentionally victimising communities in multiple ways – including through violence and intimidation – during sustained criminal careers.

Cost of crime

The report also reveals that 22 organised crime gangs are actively involved in rural crime across the UK. But only a small number of their activities are being mapped in formal police procedures. This means the full extent of organised rural crime remains unknown, with incidents less likely to be a police priority.

The report found that the costs associated with the theft of agricultural machinery and vehicles alone were £11.7 million, an increase of 29% from the previous year. Other crimes include hare-coursing and large-scale fly-tipping.

Country Land and Business Association president Victoria Vyvyan said: “Serious and organised crime has a heavy burden on already-isolated rural communities up and down the country, as outlined in this report.

“Well-established criminal gangs are dumping huge quantities of waste; coursing and poaching; and plundering the countryside, stealing machinery and often moving it abroad – this is not small-scale or opportunistic crime.

“The CLA is campaigning for greater rural training for frontline call handlers, officers and volunteers to help them correctly identify and record cases, as well as beefed-up equipment packs to assist forces in fighting rural crime.”