30 August 2001
Rural criminals target easy areas

By David Green

RURAL crime is migrating to areas perceived as having a soft police presence, according to farmers in East Anglia.

Figures compiled by the Norfolk branch of FarmWatch suggest hot spots are occurring away from areas where the police have introduced special initiatives.

Police stepped up coverage of areas such as West Norfolk where farmer Tony Martin was jailed last year after shooting dead a burglar he found in his home.

One of the new hot spots, claims FarmWatch, is the area of rural Norfolk between Fakenham and Swaffham, which is on the border of three police beats.

One farmer within that area, Stuart Agnew, of Finchams Farm, Rougham, said the problems of crime were merely migrating.

Criminals find the weakest link because they dont want to get caught.

Mr Agnew, who rents much of his 445ha (1100 acre) farm, believes lower farm subsidies should be redirected into schemes such as FarmWatch.

The organisation is better equipped for rural crime than a police force which is often over-stretched and suffering from lack of manpower, he said.

FarmWatch co-ordinator Tony Bone said communication between farmers and the police had improved over the past year and this had to be encouraged.

But policing initiatives in some parts of the county had merely pushed the criminals into other areas, he said.

Tim Price, spokesman for insurers NFU Mutual, said crime was only being contained by farmers increased vigilance and improved security measures.

Increased CCTV and policing in urban areas tends to move thieves into the countryside which is perceived as a soft target, he added.

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