Crime is a big issue for those who live in the countryside. Farm equipment and vehicles are stolen, rubbish is illegally tipped and fences and gates are damaged. There are a plethora of ways that rural crime is now reported, tracked and monitored, from the new 101 number to Farm Watch schemes and careful use of Twitter and Facebook.
Rural crime seems not to have been high on the agenda for the upcoming elections for Police and Crime Commissioners, and most farmers have not heard or met candidates. Farmers and those in rural areas help themselves, by looking again at security that they have in place.
There are also some ingenious ways to reduce rural crime – such as ploughing trenches around fields, having noisy geese on the farm and using DNA-type products on all machinery.
The discussion held on Thursday 8th November 2012 looked at the topic of “crime in the countryside – what do we do about it?” and generated a total of 650 tweets on the topic from 82 participants. These included farmers, agri-food businesses, rural advisors, land agents, lawyers, journalists, academics and NFU officeholders.
A full summary of the discussion can be found here:
Q1 Have you been a victim of rural crime? Please tell us briefly your story and the outcome
- Land rover stolen a few years ago, threatened with an ice axe, electric fence stolen last week
- Many nurseries suffered from metal, fuel & chemical thefts- nearly eradicated now they have installed fences, gates and CCTV
- About 150 sapling trees and guards etc stolen from a new HLS hedge, 2 days after it was planted
- Steering lock prevented theft of land rover. Neighbours one also taken by same gang. Arrested using community video evidence
- Who in the rural community hasn’t been a victim of crime? very few
- Fridges, cookers (whole kitchen once! builders rubble & timber, tyres etc. Council won’t touch when on your fields
- 2 tractors stolen + 10t trailer. Gang behind bars. Attempt on replacement tractor but axle lock won
- Recently had some lads try to light round bales – not stacked – damp meant they smoked across main road, 2 fire engines
- We had house burgled and stuff put in horse trailer. They stole a 4×4 from nearby farmer to tow it
- Never underestimate the deterrent effect of a swift effective investigation, prosecution and conviction
- What is being done to tackle rural crime? http://www.farmersguardian.com/your-space/editorial/what-is-being-done-to-tackle-rural-crime?%2F49195.article
- Fight back against rural crime – Matthew Scott of NFU Mutual outlines a few tips http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFz6A-yn59U&feature=youtu.be
Q2 How do you report crime and communicate with police? Do social media improve communication?
- New 101 number very useful. Direct access to certain officers and control room if necessary
- Report crime by ringing local officer on mobile, e mail, non emergency switchboard number the good old 999
- We’re now in Farmwatch/OWL,good e-mail communication. Have called 101 fairly quick response
- Most police forces say not to report crime on social media, can compromise cases when it come to court in some cases
- In Essex we report crime by email to the neighbourhood action panel run by farmers & Essex police, good way of sharing info
- I’ve spoken to the local officer and met him on site, he is keen to help
- Lots of police at rural crime conference talked about value of twitter and Facebook were in helping track & prevent crime
- Communication via social media is improving
- Social media good at building communication between small communities & helping spread news of crime quickly, police said at conference today
- I put a reg number of a vehicle involved in thefts out last wk and it was retweeted around the country in no time. Brilliant
- How do the police use social media??
- Social media needs to be part of a package of measures to communicate with communities & tackle crime
- Remember that use of social can also give criminals good intel.
- Surely anything encouraging communication & connections in communities is a good thing?
- OWL is a tel/email/SMS/fax alerting system. Used lots by police teams & farmwatch
- 1500 farms signed up to OWL in police forces that support it. Great support from rural officers targeting msgs geographically
Q3 Are you a member of a Farm Watch scheme? If so, why? If not, why?
- We’re on Farmwatch too and get info via text and twitter – very very rapid flow of information
- In farmwatch but cant see much benefit. Don’t need to hear at 8am that poachers were about at 3am
- Yes find the regular updates via email etc keep you aware of what’s going on more than it actively preventing crime
- Essex farmwatch scheme is a good way of sharing suspicious vehicles/people/incidents in real time
- No. should we be? What sort of benefits do you get from being in farm watch?
- I’m not aware of any farm watch schemes in my area. Occasional updates of stolen items can be found if looked for, not easy
- We’re in South Wales and yes there is. Really useful daily e-mails. Keeps you in the know and on your toes!
- Farmwatch a good way of sharing information ,but does it really reduce rural crime? Haven’t seen it reducing rural crime.
- Think it’s all about community neighbourhood network – build your own defences & exhaustingly be on guard at all times
- To be informed surely creates awareness and security
- One of the most rewarding things about Farmwatch is the fact that we get to know about successful convictions
- Look at all aspects of your farm as if you were the offender. Be prepared to change your practices
Q4 We are told metal thefts are down due to scrap metal cash sales clampdowns. What are your experiences?
- We have fewer lads asking if we have scrap; maybe as main scrap yard asks for and retains copy of photo ID now?
- We regularly have dodgy looking men in white vans looking for scrap!! Numberplates always taken. Geese help
- Association of Chief Police Officers estimates metal theft costs UK economy £700m a year
- Had 12 or so gates stolen a few years ago, manhole lids went missing last year
- Found a drastic drop of metal theft over the last year lost lots of equipment before
- Metal thefts down? but drive by’s & trespassing still going strong-travelling elephant in the room being ignored by some
- A lot more scrap metal clamping needed. Telephone cables, water meters (yes, really) electric fencing poles, plus more in last 3 months
- I understand the electricity distribution companies are still targets
- Asking for scrap is an excuse to scope the farm for other goodies
Q5 a) Next Thursday sees Police + Crime Commissioner elections, have you met with your candidates on rural issues? Who are they?
- No idea. Would have been nice to have a visit or maybe a leaflet? We have now got a link via farmwatch/OWL.
- Flyers through door, about it so far
- Only one candidate that I know of
- I went to a FSB meeting to meet all the Kent PCC candidates. Only one of them mentioned rural crime
- A group of us in Worcs met Adrian Blackshaw (West Mercia) who seemed very sensible & knowledgeable about rural issues
- Not met my chosen PCC in person, I have researched and the fact he is here on #agrichatuk tonight confirms my choice
- Not a dickie bird until a leaflet through the door today from a candidate not looked at it yet though
- Not met any candidates, wholly unimpressed by whole charade, not expecting any benefits
- Yet to meet a PCC candidate, names mean nothing, no information and no idea what they stand for – democracy in a vacuum?
- Not met, no. Had to search for candidates names. Her website does mention rural crime, but what’s to be done?
- All I’ve had is my voting card- not much good when the candidates don’t get in touch and tell you who they are
Q5 b) What would you like the new Police Commissioners to focus on in rural areas? What should be top priority for rural crime?
- Meeting with farmers/communities and gaining trust. Lots of frustration when police don’t visit crime scenes
- More PCSOs, they are a good link to the community, gather good intelligence and reassure you that things are being done
- More officers on ground
- Promote active Neighbourhood Watch groups. Police into villages, on farms to share info with residents/farmers
- What to focus on in rural areas? Maps (postcodes don’t always work) & communication (locals do understand their areas )
- Challenge you local police commissioners http://www.nfuonline.com/News/Rural-crime/Challenge-your-local-police-commisioners/
- The Rural Crime Challenge http://www.cla.org.uk/pa_docs/CrimeCommissioner.pdf
Q6 Laws around protecting your property from intruders have been a hot topic recently. What are your thoughts?
- Protect to the best of your ability using the minimum amount of force neccessary – or use the shotgun?
- Should be able to defend us, our home and property. But, as ex military, rules of engagement might make it tricky
- Force used to be proportionate i believe
- As a young farmer living alone on the farm, I don’t want intruders, but I’m concerned too much force & I become the criminal
- We already confront suspicious vehicles and trespassers, what are we meant to do? Let them get on with it?
- Never advocate use of shotgun, usually results in holder being prosecuted
- Defence of property is a real grey area, one man’s definition of reasonable force differs from another.
- I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone unless a case of me or them, but I would defend my property whilst awaiting help.
- Isn’t defence the best from of attack, CCTV, alarms, dog, lights etc rather than inviting intruders in-then shooting at them
- Any difference in convictions between men/women who defend themselves against intruder? Women seen as more legitimate?
- Proportionate force is very subjective it comes to their word against yours, but firmly believe in leaving the gun in cabinet
Q7 What innovative ways have you found for reducing crime in rural areas?
- Block off all gateways from autumn to spring with main road access
- We used paste with DNA type marking on/in vehicles. Cost about £150 per vehicle and had stickers to warn.
- Our geese are great at scaring people off and they sleep under the diesel tank
- Not very innovative but electric gates (which successfully keep me out too) and cctv that talks loudly, better than nothing
- GPS tags, criminals will have no worry cutting them out before farmer realises. Live cameras
- Really noisy booby-traps! Trip-wires with pots/pans and horns which will scare the daylights and alert everyone for miles
- Steering ram locks so vehicles can only drive in a circle are more successful than isolaters.
- Data tagging tractors saved 12.5% insurance, meant cost was paid back within a year. Also nice visual deterrent
- DataTag machinery and get benefit of reduced NFU Insurance costs
- Smart water is good i have been told
- Issue of crime has to be done jointly, all have a part to play, into needs passing, we need to investigate & communicate
- Feed your sheep away from the gate if field is next to a road. Don’t make it easy for sheep rustlers
Q8a Have you used trackers to protect machinery, and do insurers give you credit for being proactive?
- Do trackers work on vehicles inside a shipping container?
- I have cameras on my 2 units and thanks to internet can watch each anywhere in the world
- Don’t use them as have heard too many stories of raiders taking them off. They can detect them
- Smart water is used on all clothing banks and such like good deterrent
- Data tagging was more cost effective for us than trackers, couldn’t justify annual cost I suppose that is until we lose one
- What’s the point in trackers, we know where most ends up but it’s a no go for police to recover
- JD stolen in S. Wales, tracker went offline for 72hrs when came back online tractor was in Crete! Was loaded in container.
- The only safe way to protect our vehicles are to put it them a locked building, lost too many catalytic converters and bits
Q8b What other technologies or devices would be useful to have in order to better protect your property?
- We use Smartwater on everything of value, makes us feel proactive
- Live cameras on boundaries with alarm if covered plus foreign face ID (i.e. programmed to recognise farm faces)
- Phone dialer intruder alarm onsite with savage ex police dog in 2 minutes
- I think theft in all locations will increase as more and more people are affected by austerity measures
- Can fingerprint technology be used to start tractors/quads?
- I know there would be practicality issues, but being able to start any tractor with its own brand of key is ridiculous
- If phone has location app make sure it’s turned off while you’re not on farm
- Never make it known your away from home overnight. Someone maybe reading your tweets/Facebook.
Links to more information
- Make your tractor a tough target for thieves http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/05/03/2010/120221/Make-your-tractor-a-tough-target-for-thieves.htm
- Ignore countryside at your peril, PCCs warned http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/countryside/9652604/Ignore-countryside-at-your-peril-policing-candidates-are-warned.html
- Red diesel / fuel thefts http://www.farmersguardian.com/home/rural-life/rural-crime-red-diesel/fuel-thefts/39549.article
Simon Haley and Alan Spedding, 12 November 2012