Rural crime cost Dorset more than £685,000 in 2018, a new reports says. And despite seeing a fall of 22.3 percent from over £881,000 in 2017, problems in Dorset persist.
In its 2019 Rural Crime Report, published today, leading rural insurer NFU Mutual looks at the impact that crime is having on rural communities up and down the UK. Overall, its claims figures reveal that rural crime cost the UK £50m in 2018, an increase of 12 percent on the previous year and the highest overall cost in seven years.
The items most commonly targeted by thieves across the South West over the last 12 months were tools, ATVs/quads and machinery.
Matthew Price, NFU Mutual Senior Agent in Sturminster Newton, said: ‘At a time when rural crime is increasing across the UK, the fall in Dorset is hugely encouraging. It’s a testament to the hard work of farmers, country people and rural police to tackle crime in the country side. However there is no room for complacency. The countryside is facing a major challenge from organised criminals and it’s vital that police, farmers and rural businesses remain vigilant.
‘One of the most alarming findings from this year’s report is that fear of crime is changing life in the countryside. From constant reports of thefts and suspicious vehicles touring the countryside and rural criminals regularly staking out farms, country people feel they are under siege.
‘The report further reveals that limited police resources and repeat attacks are the biggest fears for people in rural communities, with many forced to change the way they live and work as a result of rural crime.
‘Repeat attacks are causing widespread anxiety and exacerbating the problems of rural isolation amongst farmers who often work alone all day. Some farmers are so concerned about the risk of criminal attack they can no longer leave the farm with their family to attend local agricultural shows.
‘Farmers are combining modern technology with physical fortifications to try and keep one step ahead of the thieves. Together with digging ditches and putting up earth banks to prevent criminals getting on to farm land, we’re seeing electronic devices like infra-red beams which send alerts to mobile phones and geo-fencing, which triggers an alarm if tractors go beyond farm boundaries. These technologies are proving to be effective weapons in the fight against rural crime. This is increasingly important because today’s determined thieves come armed with battery-powered angle grinders which can cut through chains and padlocks in seconds to access farm buildings and tool sheds.’
Matthew adds, ‘The threat of becoming a victim of rural crime, and regular reports of suspicious characters watching farms is causing high levels of anxiety amongst farmers who know their rural location makes them vulnerable to attacks.
‘Our advice to people living and working in the countryside is to regularly evaluate your current security measures making improvements where necessary, remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the local police and local farm watch schemes.
‘The good news is that security technology is developing fast and we’re already clearly seeing that thieves avoid tractors fitted with good security kit and sheep that have been marked with microdots. Innovative use of social media to report criminal activity is also working well in some areas – and reducing isolation. There’s no doubt that when police, farmers and other rural organisations tackle rural crime in an organised way they get results.’
As the main insurer of the countryside, NFU Mutual has responded to its members’ concerns and has invested more than £1.5m to tackle the menace of rural crime.
NFU Mutual funds a specialist agricultural vehicle police officer through the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) coordinating farm machinery theft intelligence between NFU Mutual, police forces, Border Force and Interpol.
NFU Mutual’s figures are used by police forces to help them understand rural crime on their patch and plan rural police responses. In Dorset, NFU Mutual is helping police with their approach to rural crime, including sponsorship of their branded tractor which is being used to raise awareness of rural crime issues across the county.
The company also provides support and expert advice to many local farm and rural watch schemes across the UK.
For more information and advice on how to beat rural crime in your area download the report at www.nfumutual.co.uk/ruralcrime.