rural crime
The countryside. It’s not a place you’d immediately associate with the word crime but, even though it may not have the same levels to contend with compared to more densely populated areas, the sad fact is that rural crime has become a considerable problem over recent years. According to insurers NFU Mutual’s 2017 Rural Crime Report, countryside crime cost the UK £39m in 2016 with England the worst affected, contributing £33.8m of the total figure. Theft has become a significant issue. It’s not really a surprise that the most frequently stolen items were tools; after all, they’re easily portable, difficult to trace back to the owner and ideal pickings for the opportunist thief. But criminals have become a lot more organised and considerably more brazen. As the report highlights, just a generation ago rural theft would have amounted to a couple of sheep or maybe a handful of tools being taken. But now rural crime is often carried out by gangs who spend time identifying likely targets with a view to stealing expensive agricultural vehicles like tractors or quad bikes, or who take a significant number of livestock at a time. Good transport links make it easier to sell on stolen property; it can be shipped over to mainland Europe within just a few hours. Land Rover Defenders even have their own category in the report. The vehicle is no longer made and that’s pushed up prices of parts being resold. Given the prevalence of Defenders in agricultural settings, they’ve become a major target for theft, making up £2.1m of last year’s total figure. This might sound like it’s a problem just for farmers but the impact’s wider than that. Stolen livestock could be slaughtered and processed outside regulated abattoirs before illegally entering the food chain. Farmers who are continually targeted can end up being forced out of business. That ultimately has far reaching implications including impacting on overall food production levels and costs for consumers. There’s already a great deal of action being taken to try to tackle the problem. Various partnerships are in place connecting agencies and bodies such as the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, the Plant and Agricultural National Intelligence Unit, Crimestoppers and police forces around the UK. But rural businesses can also take action to improve their own security too.

How can you protect your business?

If you’re a farmer or work in a rural business, try to view your property through the eyes of a would-be criminal. Then apply these key principles of crime prevention to help you to identify and address any weak spots that could otherwise increase the likelihood of being targeted.
  • Harden the target
Make your property and land more resistant to criminal attention where possible by making potential targets harder to remove or damage. That will increase the amount of time a criminal needs to commit the crime and that’s going to make it a less attractive option straight away. Use mechanical immobilisers on vehicles and install trackers on expensive machinery. Check that digital immobilisers are activated too. Upgrade locks on doors, windows, sheds and outbuildings. Repair and improve fencing. Install intruder alarms where appropriate and make sure you have them maintained to ensure they work effectively.
  • Remove the target
Obviously this isn’t always easy, particularly when you are trying to protect livestock and large agricultural machinery. But where it is possible to lock anything away, it’s always worth taking the extra time to do so to reduce the chances of attracting attention to it in the first place. If you have social media accounts that can be viewed publicly, be mindful of what you’re posting as that could also catch the eye of criminal gangs.
  • Reduce the means
Make sure any items that could help a criminal aren’t accessible. Loose bricks and rubble can be used to smash open windows. Large bins or containers can be used as platforms or to transport items. Secure anything that could potentially be of use by locking it away or chaining it up.
  • Reduce the payoff
Reduce the profit the criminal can make from the offence by security marking all property and livestock where possible. Etch vehicle identification numbers onto vehicle windows; it’s a lot less profitable to a thief to steal a vehicle that has to have all its glass replaced before they can sell it on.
  • Make access harder
Consider any measures that could help with controlling access to your land and property. Really simple things can make a big difference. Make sure doors and windows in buildings and vehicles are properly closed and locked when you’re not in them; even if you’re just leaving your vehicle for a moment, don’t make it easy for thieves. Put up lockable gates to reduce ease of access onto land. Check fencing, hedges, walls and any other boundaries you have and if they are not in a good state of repair, get them fixed.
  • Increase surveillance
Good surveillance makes criminals feel more exposed and more vulnerable to being caught in the act. Improve natural surveillance by installing lighting in dark areas on yards and around buildings and thinning very dense vegetation. Consider putting in a CCTV camera system too. The cameras themselves, along with the signage advising that they are installed, can be a very effective deterrent. If a very persistent criminal does still manage to commit a crime on your premises, CCTV camera footage can increase the chances of them being caught later on. If you are concerned about becoming a target for theft and would benefit from some more advice specifically about making your rural premises and property more secure, please do get in contact with us.