Case Studies

Rural crime on rise

by Mark Rowe

There are few things more depressing for a farmer than to find the remains of sheep slaughtered in the field or a lorry load of fly-tipped waste in a gateway. So says Jim McLaren, chairman of NFU Mutual, at the start of the farm insurer’s latest report on rural crime.

McLaren writes: “While the cost of rural crime continued to grow last year as organised criminals targeted the countryside, there are encouraging signs which demonstrate what can be achieved when we work together. Increased use of tracking devices is helping police recover more stolen tractors. Information from farm watch groups is helping to bring criminals to justice. New technology is protecting our flocks. During recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in many people – and the worst in a few, with crime continuing to plague the countryside and hamper our efforts to keep the nation fed.”

Besides thefts of high-value tractors, quad bikes and other farm vehicles, including to meet demands overseas, organised gangs are taking large numbers of sheep, which are thought to be entering the food chain illegally. Among other signs of sophisticated criminals, thieves are increasingly cloning the identity of tractors to make detection more difficult. The Land Rover Defender remains highly desirable to thieves stealing whole vehicles or parts for the black market, according to the report, free to download on the NFU Mutual website.

For the regional pictures, see the NFU Mutual’s map.

Comment

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said: “We must also remember that these farms are not just workplaces but homes for farming families. As well as the financial burden rural crime causes, we need to recognise the severe impact it has on the mental health of farmers, their families, and rural communities who frequently suffer intimidation and threats of violence from the organised criminals behind these acts.

“We want to see increased funding from the Home Office for rural policing and a more co-ordinated approach between police forces to tackle the serious issue of rural crime and reverse this current trend.”

As the NFU says, farms also face incursions by animal rights activists, fly-grazing, joy-riding, hare coursing and fly-tipping (picturd, mattress dumped near Sevenoaks, Kent); including of large scale and hazardous waste. Some farmers have responded by digging ditches around a perimeter of a field or compound; or making barriers in front of access points such as logs and old machinery.

NFU Mutual with Security Exchange Ltd offers ‘Security Response’, a free security service for its directors and officers insurance policyholders with AIG PrivateEdge. The service offers a telephone advice service, which
can include on-the-ground support from security consultants.

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