At peak, 40 crimes a month were being committed on farms across Gwent by September 2013. The farming community felt remote, vulnerable and disengaged with police.
At the peak, in September 2013, 40 crimes a month were being committed on farms across Gwent and the farming community was feeling remote, vulnerable and disengaged with the police.
The farms were experiencing all types of crime including burglary, theft, wildlife crime and livestock rustling, but felt unable to access specialist help or advice from the police.
“Farmers complained of a lack of investigations, patrols and engagement, which was leading to low levels of satisfaction and confidence levels in policing in these remote communities,” says Police Sergeant Simon Clark.
The appointment of a dedicated officer helped to revitalise enthusiasm for the Farm Watch scheme, which resulted in membership increasing by 400% in one year, to almost 1000 members.
The officer was able to forge closer links with partners such as the farming unions, rural partnerships, commoners associations and utility companies, whose installations run across farmland.
The farming community provided valuable intelligence which helped the force to catch a series of criminals involved in farm and rural crimes, ranging from firearms offences, to the theft of farm machinery, fuel and metal and crimes against animals.
The use of tracker vehicles also helped police to recover stolen items such as quad bikes.
In the first five months of the initiative the level of farm crime dropped by 27%. There were six arrests in five weeks, with one farmer from the county sentenced to fours years in prison in October 2014 after being found guilty of forcing a man into labour on his farm without payment.
Changing the mindsets of police officers and staff, so they understand that protecting rural communities remains as important as safeguarding urban areas, remains a challenge.
But the officer has worked to maintain farmer members’ interest in the Farm Watch scheme with regular visits to markets and personal visits to their farms.
Posting information daily on the online neighbourhood watch site (OWL – www.owl.co.uk) in a dedicated Farm Watch forum has also helped to keep interest levels high and improve efficiency.
The system sends out targeted messages, via email, phone or SMS, about crimes and problems to members who have signed up for them.
The officer has also been able to raise awareness of the risks of terrorist cells operating in remote areas and the possibility they might steal fertiliser, which could be used in bombs.
The reduction in crime levels has since been maintained and surveys conducted with farmers show increased satisfaction with both the scheme and Gwent Police.
“Farmers now have a specific point of contact who has built up a rapport, confidence and increased satisfaction level,” says PS Clark.
“Gwent Police also now has an ‘extra 1000 eyes and ears’ in the community through Farm Watch members whose intelligence has led to various arrests.”
The initiative won the Wales Rural Crime Award at the 2014 NFU Mutual Country Crime Fighter Awards. It was also runner-up the UK-wide section of the same awards.
Identifying the problem
Farms subject of all types of crime including burglary, theft, wildlife crime and livestock theft.
Farmers complained of lack of investigations, patrol and engagement leading to low satisfaction and confidence levels in policing in these remote communities.
Valuable intelligence from farmers not being tapped into.
No point of contact within Gwent Police for specialist help or advice such as could be provided by a dedicated Farm Watch Officer.
Created dedicated Farm Watch Officer
Used online neighbourhood watch site (OWL) with dedicated Farm Watch forum more efficiently posting information daily. OWL https://www.owl.co.uk/
Forged closer relations with partners such as farming unions ,rural partnerships, commoners associations and utility companies whose installations crossed farm land
Raised awareness in farming community of terrorist cells operating in remote areas and theft of fertiliser used in bombs.
Proactive arrests, warrants and covert operations much of which was intelligence led from farming victims.
Increased membership of Farm Watch in short time by 400%
Maintained members interest by regular visits to farmers markets, personal visits and online posts.
Reduced Farm Crime by 27%
Surveys conducted showed increased farmers satisfaction levels with scheme and Gwent Police.
What didn't work
Changing mind set of police officers and staff that protecting rural communities is as important as safeguarding urban areas.
Yes, a 27% reduction in farm crime has been maintained
Farmers now have a specific point of contact who has built up a rapport, confidence and increased satisfaction level.
Gwent police now have an “extra 1000 eyes and ears” in the community through Farm Watch members whose intelligence has led to various arrests.
Example- Farmer in Gwent sentenced to 4 years for farm slavery in October 2014