The NFU launched its Combatting Rural Crime report with a reception at the House of Lords attended by MPs and peers including the new policing minister Nick Hurd MP (pictured above, centre, with Chief Constable Dave Jones of North Yorkshire Police and NFU Deputy President Minette Batters).
The bill for rural crime is now more than £42.5 million and farmers and their families in some parts of the country have been victims of arson, vandalism and burglary with many NFU members experiencing fear, intimidation and threats of violence. Vehicle theft, hare coursing and fly-tipping are also contributing to widespread anger, frustration and worry.
The result is an increasing fear of crime in rural areas and significantly lower satisfaction levels in the police than the national average.
The NFU has found there is no standard protocol across police forces for combating 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.
NFU Deputy President Minette Batters wants to see a coordinated and consistent approach that would allow police forces to share best practice.
“With significant and varied differences across police forces, safety in rural areas has become a postcode lottery,” she said. “Farmers are reporting dramatic increases in incidents and are feeling more vulnerable as these actions continue. Violent crime along with fly-tipping, hare coursing and theft are just a few examples of the crimes farm businesses are being subject to. On my farm, we have suffered with constant hare coursing problems, resulting in gates being left open and stock being continually put at risk.
“The cost of rural crime in the UK reached £42.5 million in 2015 and the NFU is asking government and the Home Office to ensure increased and fairer funding for rural policing. More than 1,000 rural police stations closed between 2000 and 2012, directly impacting the level of police surveillance.
“There are many very good examples of police forces taking action and implementing good practice to deal with rural crime, with great success.
“But 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.”
The report draws on figures from the NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2016.