Sharp increase in countryside crime
THE cost of rural crime in Warwickshire has been estimated at £1.1million in 2017 — a higher than average rise of 30.9 per cent from the previous year’s £841,340 bill.
The figures form part of Stratford-based NFU Mutual’s annual Rural Crime Report — published on Monday — which reveals that the UK saw a 13.4 per cent rise in the cost of rural crime last year.
The items most commonly targeted by thieves across Warwickshire over the last 12 months were quad bikes and ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), tools and machinery.
Among the most recent incidents in south Warwickshire was the theft of an undisclosed amount of red diesel, used in agricultural vehicles, from a property on Doctors Hill in Tanworth-in-Arden, at around 2pm on 30th July.
Warwickshire Police insist resources are in place and efforts are being reinforced to tackle rural crime
Edward Wheaton, NFU Mutual senior agent in Warwickshire, said farmers and rural communities were being forced to step up security as a result.
“Countryside criminals continue to become more brazen and farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment,” he said.
“Social media is fast becoming the new eyes and ears of the countryside. By keeping in close touch with neighbours and police through local farmwatch schemes country people can play a significant role in identifying suspicious activity and bringing thieves to justice.
“Fitting gates to prevent easy access to farm yards and drives is one of the most effective measures. High-tech security such as movement detectors, infra-red cameras and ‘geo-fencing’, which triggers an alarm if a farm vehicle moves off the premises, can also play a part.”
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.
Mr Wheaton added: “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.”
Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Philip Seccombe, said: “Tackling rural crime has been a key part of my Police and Crime Plan since day one of my term of office and I have invested heavily in making sure that police officers have the right knowledge and skills to deal with it effectively.
"I have funded training for frontline officers on identifying and detecting some of the most prevalent types of rural crime, for example arming them with detailed knowledge of agricultural vehicle thefts, while the numbers of specialist wildlife crime officers have also increased, with more being trained this year.
“There have been some notable successes in tackling issues such as agricultural vehicle thefts through the use of vehicles and machinery equipped with police tracking devices, including the recent jailing of two men from Coventry who were arrested within an hour of one of these vehicles being stolen.
“While the value of insurance claims may have gone up, police are working closely with the likes of NFU Mutual and the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service to ensure that when offenders are identified, stolen vehicles and property can be returned to their rightful owners.
"Operations are also continuing to disrupt and bring to justice the organised crime groups which are often at the heart of much of this type of theft.
“I’ve also been ensuring that our rural communities have the advice and support they need to be able to take simple steps to increase their security measures. I fund a team of rural crime advisors who work with police, partners such as the NFU and the Environment Agency, and they are doing great work to help communities help themselves.
“It will take a continued combination of these efforts to ensure that rural crime reduces but it is my priority to provide the necessary resources to enable this and to hold the Chief Constable to account in delivering on what rural communities are telling us they need.”