Special report: Countryside crime on the slide in Lincolnshire thanks to efforts
Rural crime cost Lincolnshire £1.8 million in 2014. Reporter Winston Brown looks at the issues of theft, vandalism, fraud and anti-social behaviour facing farmers across the county.
During the last weekend in July, a gang forced their way on to a field in Brant Broughton and stole about 300 sheep and 120 cattle.
Farmers need to put security at the forefront of their minds and take whatever measures are necessary to keep their businesses and families safe and secure
The owner of the field near Beckingham Training Camp will take little comfort from the latest figures on rural crime published by NFU Mutual last week, which show that it cost Lincolnshire just over 20 per cent less last year than it did in 2013.
The survey, Rural Crime 2015 – Secure Together, revealed that rural crime cost the county £1.8 million in 2014, down from £2.2 million the previous year of 2013.
Nationally, the trend was also downwards as the cost of rural crime fell from £44.5 million to an estimated £37.8 million in 2014 – a 15 per cent reduction.
Gordon Corner, an NFU county adviser, said: “NFU Mutual’s annual crime survey saw a fall in the cost of rural crime in Lincolnshire last year. But the issues of theft, vandalism, fraud and anti-social behaviour, along with their effects on farmers and growers, are still top of the NFU’s agenda. Farmers are doing more to protect themselves, for instance by using marking and tracking systems on larger machinery and installing CCTV and alarm systems, too.
“Theft is still by far the most costly crime for farmers, with all-terrain vehicles, red diesel and tools frequently targeted in rural locations.
“NFU works closely with the police to ensure rural policing gets the priority needed and in meeting them regularly, we know that they understand the issues that crime in the countryside causes.”
Lincolnshire now boasts a Rural Crime Network Steering Group, made up of farmers, landowners, agricultural leaders and the Woodland Trust, who meet quarterly to discuss how the county’s police force tackles lawbreaking in the countryside.
Wildlife officer Pc Nick Willey said: “I am pleased to see that the cost of rural crime has dropped, according to the recent survey by the NFU Mutual. The hard work of all our partner agencies and manufacturers is starting to pay off, however, it still cost £1.8 million in 2014 – so we still need to be vigilant and remember that this is somebody’s livelihood on which crime can have a devastating effect.”
The NFU’s campaign is largely built on persuading farmers to play their part in the fight against rural crime by putting aside a perceived reluctance to report it as and when it happens.
Mr Corner said: “Farmers need to put security at the forefront of their minds and take whatever measures are necessary to keep their businesses and families safe and secure.
“Therefore, we are urging farmers to report anything suspicious to the police and join Lincs Alert (www.lincoln shirealert.co.uk) to help gather intelligence on crime in the countryside.”
A truer picture of rural crime in Britain should emerge when the results of a survey carried out by the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) are released later this year.
Julia Mulligan, chairman of the NRCN and police and crime commissioner for North Yorkshire, said: “I want to thank the 17,227 people who completed the NRCN’s survey. We received responses from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and of these, 12,369 were from people living or owning businesses in rurally-classified geographic wards.
“We have collected an enormous amount of rich data which will take time to analyse in full but, in due course, we will be coming forward with considered recommendations.”
In the meantime, farmers are preparing for the combining, harvesting and ploughing season in the knowledge that the annual threat from hare coursing, as well as other crimes such as solar panel thefts, waste crime scams and even cyber crime, is right on the horizon.
NFU county chairman and Spalding area farmer Ian Stancer said: “At a time-pressured season like this, the loss of a key piece of equipment such as a tractor that is set up for a specific job like drilling – with expensive and difficult-to-replace control boxes – could cause a great deal of indirect cost and time wasted.
“On top of this is the increased cost to the entire farming community in large insurance premiums.”
* Anyone who has been offered any of the sheep and cattle stolen in Brant Broughton between 8pm on Sunday, July 26, and 8am the next day for sale should call 101, quoting incident 235 of July 27, or call the charity Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555111.