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Call for urgent action on rural crime

Prompt and effective action is needed to deal with the serious issue of rural crime, says the National Farmers Union.

It comes as new figures from the Home Office show that agriculture-related crime and anti-social behaviour has risen over the past four years.

The NFU says the 2017 Commercial Victimisation Survey demonstrates to police and government the true extent of rural crime with up-to-date statistics from farmers.

    See also: Major survey seeks views on rural crime

Results show that the proportion of businesses experiencing agriculture-related crime and anti-social behaviour has risen since 2013.

The survey shows:

  • 35% of businesses experienced trespassing or unauthorised access of land or buildings
  • 26% of businesses experienced poaching, hare coursing or illegal hunting
  • 23% of businesses experienced quad biking or use of other vehicles on their land
  • 15% of businesses experienced livestock worrying

In its Rural Crime Report, the NFU called on authorities to ensure there is a dedicated rural police team in each police force.

It also calls for government to bring together a cross-departmental taskforce that could address failures in dealing with rural crime.

NFU deputy president Guy Smith said: “These new figures will come as no great surprise to farmers on the ground who often feel in a state of siege from the criminal fraternity.

“Every day the NFU hears from its members about this rural blight that has a seriously detrimental effect on lives and businesses.

“These crimes, whether it is fly-tipping, hare-coursing, burglary or theft, have more in common with organised crime than simply spontaneous acts, and it all impacts on the daily lives of farmers in far-reaching and costly ways.

“Crime in the countryside is not a simple fix, and it needs commitment and resource from both the police and government.

“With suspected links to organised crime, any solution needs cross-departmental co-operation in government to address this issue with a consistent approach.

“The NFU has pushed hard to ensure agriculture is included in these statistics to provide solid evidence that can be presented to police and government.

Mr Smith said the NFU has brought the issue of rural crime to the forefront of its activity.

It had given presentations to all police chief constables about the seriousness of the issue and hosted over 90% of police forces affected by hare-coursing to improve co-ordinated action.

“It is time that we saw some considerable action being taken by government and police to curb increasing crime in the countryside,” said Mr Smith.

This would allow farmers to do what they do best – produce food for the nation.

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