The NFU says the rising cost of rural crime should be met by a more co-ordinated and consistent response across all police forces.
The Union says farmers and their families have been victims of arson, vandalism, burglary, intimidation and threats of violence, together with vehicle theft, hare coursing and fly-tipping. It notes that more than 1,000 rural police stations were closed between 2000 and 2012, which reduces the level of police surveillance and adds to response times.
An NFU Mutual report estimates the cost of rural crime at £42.5 million in 2015, a 0.4% rise on the year before. While tractor thefts were down by 9%, the value of machines stolen rose by 0.6%. There was a 7% increase in livestock theft. By region the North West and East of England were worst affected. Rural crime in Lincolnshire was up by 19% to £2.2m and in Lancashire by 18% to £2.1m. But Essex saw a 39% cut from £2.2m in 2014 to £1.3m.
“The result is an increasing fear of crime in rural areas and significantly lower satisfaction levels in the police than the national average,” says the NFU. “There is no standard protocol across police forces for combatting rural crime, with some forces not even treating rural crime as serious crime. This is leading to so-called ‘criminal tourism’ with perpetrators often travelling long distances to target farm businesses.”
The NFU has launched its own report, Combatting Rural Crime. “We believe more joined-up thinking is needed from police forces together with local authorities and Government to address these issues. The NFU would like Government to take the lead to ensure all constabularies adopt strategies of accurate recording and target setting and are willing to work together to find positive solutions to these challenges – farmers should not be seen as a soft target for criminals.”