How to prevent rural crime

AS all eyes turned to the showground in Llanelwedd at the end of July the FUW started the show week with a practical approach seminar on preventing rural crime. Outlining the problem and offering practical solutions to rural crime were Dyfed‐Powys Police Temporary Inspector and Rural Crime lead PC Matthew Howells, North Wales Police Rural Crime Team Manager Rob Taylor, Barclays Agriculture Relationship Director Kathryn Whitrow, Plant‐I Risk Manager Nicholas Harvey and Leon Oliver Window from Select Rural Security Specialists.

“Every year rural crime costs millions of pounds and causes untold anxiety to farmers and rural businesses. The seminar offered a great insight into how farmers and those living in rural areas can help themselves,” said FUW deputy president Brian Thomas.

Chairing the seminar, head of news and business at the Farmers Guardian, Olivia Midgley, said: “The scourge of rural crime, whether it be livestock or
machinery thefts, dog attacks on livestock, hare coursing or fly tipping, is something that, sadly, farmers and landowners are only too familiar with.

“The debate has been constructive in discussing ways the industry can tackle the problem head on and in North Wales particularly, it is reassuring to see such effective policing being undertaken to address the growing problem of livestock worrying,

“Farmers Guardian, with support from across the industry, has been working with farmers, dog owners, police forces and the general public to raise awareness of the issue and we hope that with our Take the Lead initiative now moving into schools, together we can drive down the number of attacks.”

Temporary Inspector with Dyfed Powys Police and rural crime lead, Matthew Howells highlighted that last year 500 rural crimes were reported in the Dyfed‐Powys Police area. These included 27 quad bike thefts, 63 reports of stolen sheep which account for 1,800 sheep, 40 gates, 50 reports of stolen power tools, 7 reports of stolen cattle totalling 40 cattle and an increasing number of batteries such as tractor batteries. But that might not be the final figure according to Matthew Howells.

He explains: “Rural crime is still too underreported. If we think that there is only about 1.5 crimes reported per day, it highlights that more farmers need to speak up about the crime they encounter, so that we can more effectively help them and target rural criminality.”

Addressing the issue of livestock worrying, Rob Taylor, North Wales Police Rural Crime Team Manager, highlighted that in North Wales in nearly four years there have been approximately 500 separate livestock attacks with the loss of nearly 2,000 sheep.

In terms of thefts from farms Rob Taylor outlined some practical solutions saying: “We find that the majority of thefts from farms are opportunistic, in that the thieves see what is available and easy to take. We advise farmers to take basic precautions such as removing keys from machinery and quad bikes and ensuring tools are locked away when not used. Also padlocking gates can be a good deterrent as well as CCTV. It is vital to us that if a farmer gets a suspicious visit, that if it is safe to do so then the vehicle registration number is recorded and possibly a description of the occupants.

“Further guidance advice can be obtained by visiting the North Wales Police website and searching ‘Rural crime’ or following the team @NWPRuralcrime.”

Cyber crime was also hotly debated, with Barclays Agriculture Relationship Director Kath Whitrow highlighting that those living in rural areas are more aware of cybercrime.

Kath Whitrow said that their recent research has shown that city dwellers are more at risk of cybercrime than those living in the country, with 20 per cent of rural residents claiming to have experienced an online scam or fraud in the past three years, compared with a UK average of 25 per cent.

“Behaviour also plays a key role. Rural dwellers in general show more awareness and caution in how they behave online, scoring more highly in our Digital Safety Index, averaging a 6.49 score compared with city average score of 6.02.”

Looking at further practical solutions to preventing rural crime, Plant‐I’s Risk Data manager Nicholas Harvey said: “Plant i were thrilled to be part of the discussion panel looking at what can be done to tackle rural crime. Statistics show that of all farm

machinery stolen, such as Quadbikes and tractors, only 5 per cent are recovered.

“It was therefore good to hear a multi‐platform approach being discussed, as well as the need for implementing preventative measures to discourage theft. Tracking devices for recover measures will provide police forces with greater intelligence to catch criminals and will also have a positive effect on reducing rural crime figures.”

Speaking after the seminar, Leon Oliver Window, owner of Select Rural Security Specialists said: “The choice of topic for the discussion, ‘Rural Crime ‐ a proactive approach’, is something that I am passionate about, and I was glad to be able to offer some of Select’s expertise on rural security to those in attendance.

“I hope that those who did attend learnt something from the discussion, even if it is a few simple tips and tricks to help secure their rural property. For anyone wishing to learn more, simply contact the team at Select Security.”

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