A national rural crime task force should be launched by the Government to address failures in dealing with criminals who prey on countryside communities.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said that a more consistent and co-ordinated way of tackling rural crime was needed to end a postcode lottery, whereby rural crime is tackled differently from force to force.
There has been a “dramatic” increase in incidences of rural crime and a growing feeling of vulnerability reported by NFU members, the union said, with the absence of a national strategy for addressing the issue doing nothing to alleviate the problems faced on farms.
The union released its new rural crime manifesto at a parliamentary reception yesterday, hosted by Baroness Anne McIntosh of Pickering and attended by the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, Dave Jones.
Speaking ahead of the Westminster event, Minette Batters, the NFU’s deputy president, said: “With significant and varied differences across police forces, safety in rural areas has become a postcode lottery.
“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.”
Ms Batters added: “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.”
North Yorkshire Police launched a Rural Taskforce in April 2016 and it is believed to be the largest unit dedicated to tackling rural crime in England.
Ms Batter said: “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.”
Baroness McIntosh told The Yorkshire Post that confidence within rural communities needed lifting in the fight against crime, saying: “Rural crime can be a 4x4 or an animal box taken and that’s big money for the farmer but because it is not a crime against a person, there are limited resources to go after those responsible. If you make a report about a crime on a farm and nothing happens, you’re not going to do so again.”
Latest figures show that rural crime costs almost £3.5m a year in Yorkshire following a 1.6 per cent rise in value between 2015 and 2016, according to figures from insurer NFU Mutual.
Quad bikes, 4x4s, tractors and farm tools and machinery were the most frequently stolen items.
Nationally, rural crime costs the economy £42.5m.
Among the NFU’s recommendations to better tackle rural crime in its new Combatting Rural Crime report, is called for a national definition of rural crime to be agreed, for sentencing guidelines to reflect the true cost and impact of crimes and for more funding for research to understand rural crime and its links to organised criminal networks.