Police forces across England and Wales are failing to recognise the detrimental effects of rural crime, according to new analysis by a landowners’ organisation.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which scrutinised 38 rural police forces across England and Wales, found more than one-third (37%) lacked a dedicated rural crime strategy, nearly two-fifths (39%) did not have a rural crime team, and only 10 forces (28%) delivered rural crime training for new recruits.
More than one in four forces (27%) did not have a police officer of inspector rank or above leading rural crime, the research found.
And only about half (53%) of rural police forces across England and Wales have dedicated rural crime prevention tools, such as 4x4s, trail bikes, night vision equipment or drones.
CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said it is “astounding” that one-third of rural police forces do not have a dedicated strategy or team to deal with rural crime – especially when one considers the huge financial and emotional effect it has on those who live or work in the countryside.
He added: “Farming is a stressful business, where many are working on tight margins. Having to deal with replacing lost machinery, repairing a vandalised barn, or clearing up and bearing the cost of someone else’s fly-tipped mess, just adds unnecessary stress, eats away at meagre profits and takes up valuable time.
“All of that is before we deal with the emotional fallout of becoming a victim of crime, which many will unfortunately know can have long-lasting repercussions on wellbeing and feeling safe in your own home.”
Mr Breitmeyer said he recognised that budgetary constraints were an issue, but he called for rural crime to be taken more seriously.
“Next year’s police commissioner elections may well see rural crime rise up the policing agenda, but there is no reason why – as a bare minimum – all rural police forces should not have a dedicated rural crime strategy in place before then.”
The latest analysis builds on previously published figures by rural insurer NFU Mutual, which show the average cost of a rural crime incident is £4,800, with each fly-tipping occurrence costing more than £1,000 to clear up.
A survey by Farmers Weekly of more than 550 farmers across the UK in April found 82% said they believed rural crime had gone up over the past 12 months.
Farming communities are also living in fear, with 78% of respondents saying they are concerned about becoming a victim of rural crime – and 32% saying they are “very concerned”.
Rural crime is estimated to cost the economy about £44.5m a year, according to NFU Mutual.
Five recommendations for police forces to combat rural crime
1. Every rural police force should have a dedicated rural crime team, with an identified point of contact for rural communities.
2. Every force must have a rural crime strategy in place by May 2021 that has been created in consultation with local people. This should include seeking to make use of rural volunteers, local forums and regular communications with communities to ensure strong links between police forces and local people.
3. All police forces must undertake an audit of the equipment required to combat crimes in their locality and set out a plan to acquire equipment that is lacking.
4. Mandatory rural crime training for all new recruits.
5. As part of their police and crime plan, incoming police and crime commissioners must identify their ambitions for rural areas.