Farm shop owners warned to stay vigilant amid rise in crime

Farm shop owners are being warned to remain vigilant after a survey of rural retailers revealed that more than one-third have suffered from crimes in the past 12 months.

The research from rural insurer NFU Mutual reveals that shops in rural areas have faced an average of £40,000 in associated costs in the past year – with one in 20 rural retailers losing between £200,000 and £500,000 to crime in the same period.

The findings come as 72% of surveyed shop owners said they felt theft and rural crime had worsened.

The most common type of crime reported include the theft of goods from the shop floor or stockroom in working hours (48%), followed by verbal violence or assault against staff and customers (38%), overnight theft (23%), criminal damage (20%) and theft of money from tills or safe (13%).

David Harrison, farming specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Our study shows a worrying number of retailers of all sizes are falling victim to crime, and we would urge farm shop owners to stay vigilant to protect their stock, staff and premises.

“With rural retailers on average suffering losses of more than £40,000/year as a result of theft, we have seen businesses make huge efforts to feel protected from crime, with both technology and physical security put in place.

“Farm shops have sadly been targeted in the past due to their remote locations, so it’s vital owners take all necessary and appropriate preventative steps to try to deter thieves.”

Protect against shoplifting

NFU Mutual has issued the following advice to farm shop owners to protect against shoplifting:

  • Use customer service as a tool to deter thieves – greeting them lets them know they have been acknowledged and may deter them as they have been identified 
  • Make sure store layouts are organised and tidy, placing high-value items, which are more desirable for thieves, in areas that can be monitored. Consider adding mirrors to the store to reduce blind spots.
  • If possible, limit the number of high-value items on display and secure remaining stock within a robust, lockable area 
  • Train staff to recognise shoplifting tactics and ensure they know how to keep themselves safe from the risk of violence 
  • Consider displaying signage in-store notifying thieves that they will be prosecuted 
  • Try to minimise cash takings and use counter caches to deposit cash during opening hours
  • Install a good-quality, compliant safe that is fixed in place and preferably kept in an alarm-protected area 

Protecting against break-ins

  • Ensure all doors and windows have good-quality locks that cannot be opened from the outside or from the inside without the use of a key 
  • Always keep keys to doors, windows and safes in a secure location. Always remove them from your premises outside of business hours and limit their distribution among managers or staff.
  • Consider investing in good shutters, grilles and bars on doors and windows
  • If investing in an intruder alarm, ensure it is installed by a NSI- or SSAIB-approved company, compliant with EN1350-1 standards, and provides remote signalling to an alarm receiving centre 
  • If investing in surveillance (CCTV), ensure it provides good-quality images, is recorded to the cloud with links to mobiles and/or remote monitoring, and meets data-protection requirements 
  • Be aware of cyber threats and make sure you have cyber insurance in place should the worst happen 
  • Consider hiring data protection specialists to provide ongoing security of your data 
  • Have a robust policy in place for responding to intruder alarm activations – for example, don’t let a keyholder turn up on their own 
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