Farmer survey reveals true cost of rural crime in the region

Farmers in the region have said they have seen a surge in fly-tipping, trespass, hare coursing and theft with regional crime costing businesses thousands of pounds.

Hundreds of regional members took part in the NFU’s national rural crime survey and farmers said they wanted to see more resources put into tackling the issue in the countryside.

In the West Midlands, 222 farmers and growers responded and 42 per cent said they had experienced one crime or more last year at an average cost of £5,463.

The survey also showed that security at regional farm businesses has been beefed up with farmers spending thousands on crime prevention and security.

As well as the usual lines of communication with police officers, 28 per cent of farmers revealed they were turning to mobile phone What’sApp groups to report rural crime and pass on intelligence – although 78 per cent said they did not have regular contact with the police other than when reporting incidents.

The survey was conducted by phone and online by the NFU’s in-house research team to help assess the level of rural crime, ahead of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Elections on May 6.

Farmer Malcom Roberts, NFU regional board chairman, who represents farmers across Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, said: “Rural crime remains a blight on the countryside but such a survey helps the union better understand farmers’ perceptions of crime; whether members have been affected, how secure we feel as well as the extent of our interaction with the police.

“As NFU officeholders, the county adviser team and group secretaries speak with PCC candidates all of this will be fed into them.”

A majority of respondents, 61 per cent, said they felt that the police took sufficient action but half said they still wanted to see more resources devoted to tackling rural crime in their area.

While a massive 70 per cent said they felt rural crime in their area has increased during the past year and 45% of regional respondents said they did not feel safe or secure.

Robert Newbery, NFU West Midlands regional director, said: “We do work closely with the police in our area and have seen some excellent results from their respective rural crime teams and more than half, 58 per cent, of those who took part in the survey said they did not experience any crime in 2020.

“The survey revealed that of the 42 per cent of crime victims who reported at least one instance last year the most common types of items targeted were tools, equipment, vehicles and machinery.”

The survey revealed that 60 per cent had reported the most recent incident to the police, but farmers said they were less likely to report trespass, fly-tipping and cyber-crime.

A lack of police response, the crime being too minor and the time it took to report a crime were the top three reasons why respondents said they did not flag up incidents with officers.

A total of 1,968 interviews were conducted between January 21 and March 16 2021.

Mr Newbery added: “Of course, you will find negatives in such a report but it also shows the rural community is fighting back, employing additional security measures on their farms and embracing new ways of communicating and reporting incidents.”

Tackling rural crime is also a key strand of the NFU’s Levelling up Rural Britain report launched earlier this year, which highlights how British farming and rural Britain can provide the solution to many of the challenges the nation faces by driving sustainable food production and pioneering food policy that produces carbon neutral food.

It also showcases how rural Britain is uniquely placed to help the recovery of the nation from Covid-19; delivering physical and mental health through the farmed landscape, which has been a lifeline for so many during lockdown, and supporting the return to whole-food cooking with nutritious, sustainable and affordable British food.

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