Crime remains ‘blight’ on countryside

One in three eastern region farms has been a victim of rural crime over the past year – with one quarter of crimes going unreported, reveals a survey.

Some 35% of farm businesses surveyed had experienced crime between March 2011 and March 2012, according to the NFU study. Theft was the most common, with 28% of those surveyed having one or more thefts.

Farm machinery, tools, fuel and metal were among items targeted by thieves. Burglaries occurred on 6% of farms with 4% of farms reporting hare coursing or fly tipping.

Many farmers commented that the police do their best with the resources available, but more than a third (39%) felt they did not take sufficient action when a crime was reported.

NFU regional director Pamela Forbes said: “Rural crime remains a blight on the countryside. We are concerned, but sadly not surprised, that so many of our members have been affected in the past 12 months.

“However, the survey also shows the rural community is fighting back. It suggests that about one third of our members are in farm watch schemes, with most of the schemes set up in the past five years.

“We know the police are under huge financial pressure across our region and that pressure is growing. We need to work with them and other agencies to ensure criminals don’t find easy pickings in the countryside.”

In all, 73% of crimes experienced by respondents were reported to the police. Crimes of burglary, arson, animal feed theft and criminal damage from vehicles to land were all reported. Metal theft and fly-tipping were among those least likely to be reported.

Suffolk Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable Paul Marshall said: “Policing a county like Suffolk which is made up of many rural areas and farming communities brings some very specific and unique challenges.

“With the distances involved and the isolated nature of some communities, we rely heavily on the public providing us with information, remaining vigilant and playing their part to help prevent rural crime.

Rural crime was an area of great concern, said Mr Marshall.

“Our Safer Neighbourhood and Community Safety Teams work closely with local communities and have been successful in setting up Farm Watch schemes around the county, which helps people get involved and become the eyes and ears of their local area.”

The NFU is sending the survey results to candidates ahead of elections for the new county Police and Crime Commissioners, due to take place in November. It will be to challenging candidates to make commitments that will assist rural areas and the farming community.

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