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COUNTRY

9 July 1999

COUNTRY

LIFE IS UNDER

SERIOUS THREAT

A NEW Country Lifestyle area opened at the Royal Show this year. The area, developed by the RASE in partnership with the NFU encompassed aspects of the country home, garden and outdoor life.

There you could catch up on issues of the day at the information centre or watch some traditional craft demonstrations.

But there is more to rural life than crafts. While there are many vibrant, thriving rural communities, others suffer from lack of the everyday services that town dwellers take for granted. This is highlighted in a report, The Changing Village, produced by the National Federation of Womens Institutes following a nation-wide survey.

It shows that in some areas 30% of villages are without a shop, 60% without a doctors surgery and 70% are without a regular police presence. It identified the closure of 178 pubs and 145 banks or building societies, and the need, long known but still not properly addressed, for better public transport and youth facilities. Bethan Williams, chairman of the NFWIs Environment & Affairs Rural Committee said that the continuing loss of local services threatens community village life and spirit. "As the government prepares the new Rural White Paper we hope that they will take into account the findings of the report," she said. "Village services are the backbone of our communities and need positive support from us all.

The future of British game species and their place in the rural scheme of things is explored by the Game Conservancy Trust, in A Question of Balance launched at the show. This conservation plan based on scientific observation, is published as a very informative and reader-friendly book. Edited by Dr Stephen Tapper it is well illustrated with colour photographs and clear graphs and well worth its £25 cover price. (Tel 01425-651003 to purchase).

Whether it is the future of wildlife or village life, nothing can be taken for granted today and it is good to know that such diverse organisations are on the case.

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Country

30 January 1998

people still leave themselves open

Country

More effective policing of

urban areas and improved

roads are encouraging more

criminals to target farms.

Robert Davies talked to a

specialist in making life

difficult for them

DICK Popes grandfather was a farmer which, he believes, gives him a special affinity with countryside people. That said he had to work hard to gain their trust when he became Dyfed-Powys Polices farm crime prevention officer for much of the old county of Montgomeryshire.

Joining the Cefn Coch ATB-Landbase training group to learn gate making and hedgelaying helped. He met many farmers and confirmed that, while they were wary of strangers, they were generally not very security- conscious.

City adaptation

"While city dwellers have adapted to the rising crime rate many farmers leave doors and gates unlocked, the ignition keys in vehicles, and easily transported items like chainsaws unmarked and unsecured," says Sergeant Pope. "My biggest task has been convincing them that countryside crime is a growth area, and their property can disappear and be sold on the Continent within hours.

"There are many more easily marketable items on farmyards and in farm houses than 20 years ago. Lack of security often makes it very easy for thieves to steal something like an ATV or Land Rover to order. The wider use of off-lying accommodation land means that sheep can be as easy to take and dispose of as a video recorder."

Farmers should make their own crime risk assessment, or call in their local police crime prevention officer for free unbiased advice. This is unlikely to mean investing in expensive closed circuit television, high fences or wheel clamps for their vehicless. There are many much more simple ways of protecting farmers property, and that of their neighbours.

Vigilance weapon

"The most effective weapon is vigilance, and that costs nothing. If all farmers noted the registration numbers of vehicles parked in unusual places, or kept an eye on strangers behaving in a suspicious way, some travelling criminals would be deterred, or would be more likely to be caught."

This is the principle of farm watch schemes, and in Sgt Popes area these have proved to be very effective at containing and even reducing rural crime. In the last four years he had attended dozens of meetings and now has 166 farmers co-ordinating local schemes.

Post code marking

He also encourages farmers to obviously post code-mark all items that might attract a thief. This can be done using a nail to scratch a plastic component like the mudguard or air filter housing cover of an ATV; a new mudguard is expensive and anyone asking for a rarely replaced cover should make a dealer suspicious.

"Farm bike theft is a big problem nationally. We advise farmers to keep their own note of engine and chassis numbers, and to register machines with the DVLA. If an ATV travels distances of less than 1.6km on the road it is exempt from duty, but registering it means that its details are on the central police computer.

"If it never goes on the road a farmer can get free Q-plate registration and the details are held on computer."

All machine details and information about obvious and hidden identification marks should be supplied to any new owners. Farmers buying second-hand machines must check manufacturers identification marks for signs of tampering, and ensure that change of ownership is registered.

Being able to lock entrance gates, buildings containing stealable items, and the farmhouse, enhances security around farmyards. Sgt Pope suggests common keying where several locks require the same key. Movement activated lights are also a deterrent.

"I would never place my faith in farm dogs. Some thieves come prepared to deal with dogs. It is a good idea to jot down the registration numbers of vehicles used by people calling uninvited at farms to sell or buy goods or services; they could be looking for items to steal. Good security need not be expensive, and it will mean lower insurance premiums."

Sergeant Pope:"Countryside crime is a growth area…property can disappear and be sold abroad within hours."

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