Fears of post-F&M farm crime wave

26 April 2002

Fears of post-F&M farm crime wave

CRIME chiefs anticipate a rise in rural thefts as foot-and-mouth controls stopping visitors from straying on to farms are relaxed.

In the West Midlands, West Mercia police are already seeing a rise in the number of thefts from farms. A police spokesman said longer evenings and farmers working hours were helping criminals. "More equipment is being brought out of barns and farmers are often away from premises. Its a case of lock it or lose it," he added.

Regional reports show thefts are often blatant. Hit-lists include high value items such as ATVs, 4x4s, trailers and workshop kit, say police. Crime reports issued to the media highlight one farmers fury at being engaged in conversation with an uninvited visitor while an accomplice stole a cattle trailer from a nearby barn.

NFU Mutual – which has a large stake in rural insurance cover – indicates that the West Midlands, South Wales and South West are the latest crime hot spots. "If we take our last figures on crime, the West Midlands alone saw a 7.5% increase on the previous year while some eastern regions saw crime fall," said a company spokesman.

CCTV in towns and better home security in urban areas is believed to be encouraging criminals into the countryside. NFU Mutual is expected to release theft figures for the period covering the foot-and-mouth crisis at this years Royal Show. But some pundits believe thefts fell during the epidemic because the countryside was closed.

However, the NFU Mutual spokesman warned foot-and-mouth did not stop the criminal fraternity altogether. "Anecdotal evidence suggests that vehicles and implements used as barriers at farm entrances became targets," he said. &#42

&#8226 see Rural Crime, page 23

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