Farmers are living in fear of rural crime, says a report – with more than two-thirds of growers and livestock producers targeted by offenders in the past year alone.
Some 69% of farmers said they had been victims of rural crime in the past 12 months, with 60% saying they were worried about becoming a victim of crime in the future.
Rural communities believe crime is a big problem, but many offences go unreported, according to findings from the latest national rural crime survey, published by the National Rural Crime Network on Monday (23 July).
Farmers, young people and hard-working families are among those most affected and feeling most vulnerable, according to the study.
Crime, and the fear of crime, is leading to emotional strain and a loss of confidence, warns the report, called Living on the Edge.
Cost of crime
The financial strain of crime is significant – the average effect of crime on farmers and rural business owners is £4,800, which is a 13% increase on 2015.
Some 57% of respondents said they had seen evidence of fly-tipping in the past year – topping the list of offences, with speeding second at 32%.
Both problems are clearly important for rural communities, says the report, but they are not solely policing issues, with responsibility shared among local authorities and other agencies.
Too many partner organisations, such as local councils, were less able to respond to the needs of rural communities, it added.
The rural crime network comprises 30 police and crime commissioners, supported by a range of other organisations with an interest in community safety and rural affairs.
Network chairwoman Julia Mulligan, who is police and crime commissioner for North Yorkshire, described the survey as a wake-up call for those in positions of power:
“These results are stark and worrying. Crime is up. Anger is up. Frustration is up. Trust is down. Those rating the police as good is down.
“With 10.3 million people living in rural areas, these are trends we can no longer ignore.
“Every decision affecting national policing moving forwards, from funding to safety and security, has to be set against the findings of this report.
“This report needs to be listened to in the future when decisions on funding are being made. We can no longer continue to see funding being sucked from rural to urban areas.
“It simply isn’t good enough and politicians need to sit up and listen.”
The number of crimes going unreported by rural businesses to police has risen by two-thirds since the last time the survey was undertaken in 2015.
Satisfaction with police down
Rural communities do not feel the police and criminal justice system understand the issues or do anything about them, says the report.
Only 27% of respondents to the survey said local police were doing a good job – some 11% lower than when the same question was asked in 2015.
Last month, the government announced plans to crack down on illegal waste crime and fly-tipping by organised criminal gangs, which is blighting the countryside.
Defra plans to beef up the government’s approach to tackling waste crime in England following a three-month review due to end later this summer.
In a further move to combat rural crime, the NFU has teamed up with Crimestoppers to encourage farmers to report incidents anonymously.