The startling finding that many farmers are so concerned about the risk of their properties and land being targeted by criminals they feel they can no longer leave their grounds unoccupied to attend local agricultural shows brings home the impact of rural crime in a way that simple statistics cannot.
But the figures themselves are alarming enough. According to the 2019 Rural Crime Report by insurer NFU Mutual, rural crime across Yorkshire’s countryside cost nearly £4m last year, with an 80 per cent rise in North Yorkshire alone in 2018.
As Matthew Gummerson, the NFU Mutual’s agent in Honley, aptly puts it, the costs go beyond the financial - the intangible but nevertheless very real feeling of being at risk, and altering the way you live and work as a result, has deep consequences and exacerbates the problems of rural isolation for many farmers who already work alone all day.
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Mr Gummerson puts it bluntly: “From constant reports of thefts and suspicious vehicles touring the countryside and rural criminals regularly staking out farms, country people feel they are under siege.”
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The extent of criminality even included the widespread theft of livestock, with large numbers of lambs being stolen for slaughter and processed outside regulated abattoirs before illegally entering the food chain.
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While modern technology such as geo-fencing - which triggers alerts if tractors go beyond farm boundaries - can assuage concerns to some extent, the ultimate answer can only be greater investment in rural policing allowing for effective action to tackle the organised criminals targeting Yorkshire’s agricultural community.
With new Prime Minister Boris Johnson promising to recruit 20,000 new police officers in the next three years to keep communities safer, it is vital that rural areas get their fair share of that resource.