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Key steps to fighting tide of rural crime

Farming | Published:

No matter how hard you work and however astute you are with your investments, there’s always someone who wants to take it away from you.

Mark Riches is Director CLA Midlands

It’s bad enough when the weather or the taxman affect your bottom line, but when someone walks onto your farm and leaves with your ATV or a trailer full of tools, then it is not just a financial loss, there’s the knock-on effect of lost hours, lost harvest and that sickening feeling of being violated.

So why do we so often make it easy for the worst to happen? That’s a topic that came up when the CLA, our Shropshire and Herefordshire chairmen, and the local NFU met with West Mercia Police to see how we can work together to address rural crime.

I came away with mixed feelings, but a strong sense of progress.

I was heartened to hear a positive, can-do attitude from the police who are doing their very best to make the most of a frankly limited resource; heartened to hear that each policing area in West Mercia will have two police officers focused on rural crime (a team of 10 across the force); and heartened that Superintendent Policing Commander Susan Thomas, who leads rural crime, and Assistant Chief Constable Martin Evans, took the time to listen to our concerns.

However, I was concerned to hear that links to organised crime were even more prevalent than we feared, which makes it all the more important that we ensure our own property is as unattractive as possible to the rural criminal.

Preventing an opportunist theft on your farm can stop a wave of crime in its tracks, or at least move it elsewhere. And, once a victim of crime, it is logical that you will be targeted again – unless you visibly improve your security. There are police resources available to help through the current rural business officer, design out crime officer, and two further police officers will be recruited in the coming weeks.

I might be repeating myself, but take a short time to look at your property as a potential thief would. Don’t leave the keys in the bike, the tractor or in your overalls. Lock gates, consider cameras and security lighting, and make all your efforts highly visible. Plug those gaps in your defences.

Most importantly, please report all incidents of crime, suspicious activity and unwanted callers on 101, or 999 if a crime is in progress. West Mercia Police tell us they need such reports so they can build up patterns of activity allowing them to focus priorities. Passing on details of suspect people or vehicles – with as much information as possible – is not wasting police time. In the long run it will keep us all safer.

In the fight again rural crime we should leave no stone unturned (especially the one hiding your front door key).

Mark Riches is Director CLA Midlands

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