Farmwatch launched to protect Rutland farms

Farmer William Cross EMN-140814-100006001
Farmer William Cross EMN-140814-100006001
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A new crime-fighting tool has been launched by police in Rutland to help farmers.

Farmwatch, due to be launched soon, is a free alert service aimed at preventing crime by sharing information.

The system works by farmers sending text messages about suspicious activities they spot to a mobile number and the police sending out an alert to everyone who is signed up to the scheme.

Farmers and remote properties are often targeted by criminals. By sending out early warning messages, police say, they can try to stop people becoming victims of crime in rural areas of the county.

For example, if a suspicious vehicle is spotted near a farm and reported via Farmwatch, that message can be sent out to all farmers in the area urging them to be vigilant and to check their property is safe.

Farmwatch will also allow police to send out timely advice whenever necessary.

PCSO Steve Houghton who is part of the Farmwatch team is a former farmer who worked in the agricultural industry for 30 years.

He said: “I used to spend 14 hours a day in the field. So all my communications were done over the mobile phone. If a farmer spots someone acting suspiciously, for instance, he can text the Farmwatch number, and with one press of the button we can alert everyone else.

“And if we know, for example, of a hare coursing incident across the border in Leicestershire we can alert all the farmers in Rutland to be on the look out.

“Another benefit is, if one farmer alerts us to a potential crime in his area we can act quickly and we may be able to catch the perpetrator.

“Rutland has large rural areas and this scheme can only be of benefit to the county.”

Sheep farmer William Cross runs Hill Top Farm, in Oakham. He said: “Farmwatch is a most excellent scheme and should be supported.

“In the countryside we have farmers and farm workers who can see quite a lot while going around on tractors. If there’s a single point of contact where we can send messages, that is going to be very helpful.”

Alison Pratt, spokesman for the National Farmers Union in Rutland said rural areas were increasingly being targeted by organised crime and opportunistic thieves.

Ms Pratt, who is based in Oakham said: “We very much welcome Farmwatch. It’s a great initiative.

“Any deterrent that can stop farmers being targeted is useful.

“Specially if there are going to be notices that say ‘I am a member of Farmwatch’.”

NFU Mutual say the cost of claims has been increasing as result of high-value items such as tractors being stolen.

The most common items targeted by thieves in this region however were tools, farm machinery and fuel such as domestic heating oil and red diesel, a survey by the insurance company found.