Labour launches new rural crime strategy

The Labour Party is promising to “take down rural crime gangs” as part of a new rural crime strategy, which it claims will help protect communities from the scourge of theft, vandalism, and illegal drugs.

The strategy, launched by Labour leader Keir Starmer on Tuesday 23 April, sets out a three-pronged approach to tackling rural crime. It promises:

  1. Cross-government co-ordination, to ensure the Home Office, Defra and the National Crime Agency are working in unison
  2. Additional police patrols in rural areas
  3. Tougher measures to clamp down on equipment theft, sheep worrying, fly-tipping and drug dealing.

See also: Find all our rural crime advice in one place 

The strategy is being launched off the back of new research commissioned by the Labour Party which shows that the crime rate in rural areas has surged by 32% since 2011, compared with 24% for urban areas – with a total rise of almost 130,000 reported offences.

It also suggests confidence in the police has fallen by 10% over the past five years, while victim satisfaction has dropped from 67% to 56%.

“Labour will stamp out crime and disorder in our countryside communities and bring respect back to Britain,” claimed Sir Keir.


Country Land and Business Association president Victoria Vyvyan said she welcomed the new strategy, but insisted the immediate focus should be on ending the “chronic” underfunding of rural police forces.

“Criminals are often emboldened by the isolation of rural communities,” she said. “As a result, rural crime is anything but petty, and it often comes with the explicit threat of violence from thugs linked to organised criminal gangs. 

“Expensive machinery is being stolen and moved abroad, hare-coursing is being live-streamed for illegal international betting markets, even crimes many thought of as being a thing of the past – such as sheep rustling – are increasingly common.”

The deteriorating situation was also highlighted by NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Hannah Binns, who pointed to the international activity of organised crime gangs.

 “Our latest figures show that the UK cost of rural crime shot up by 22% to £49.5m in 2022, with intel revealing many items are stolen to order by thieves using technology to identify and scope out rural locations.

“Loss of vital equipment can cause huge disruptions to farm operations, with long wait times for replacement kit adding further stress.

“But the effect of rural crime goes beyond finances, with those targeted by criminals often living in fear of repeat attacks on what is not only their workplace, but also their family home.”

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