The NFU, NFU Mutual and representatives from 40 police forces are coming together for the first time to discuss the growing crime wave sweeping rural Britain that has seen a surge in machinery and equipment thefts, livestock rustling and industrial fly-tipping.
The National Rural Crime Unit Conference at Stoneleigh, held on 5 June, will examine ways of combatting the huge rise in cases, including raising awareness across rural communities, preventative measures, and sharing key information and intelligence.
As an example of the crime spike in rural Britain, new research from NFU Mutual has revealed the cost of GPS theft in the first four months of 2023 exceeded £500,000, more than double compared to the same period last year.
NFU vice president David Exwood, who is hosting the event, said: “Highly organised gangs of criminals continue to plague the great British countryside, stealing livestock and expensive GPS equipment, trespassing on private land and regularly fly-tipping tons of rubbish; their actions significantly impact farm businesses, farming families and rural communities, both financially and emotionally.
“The conference demonstrates the importance of a collaborative approach with farmers, policymakers and police forces working together effectively at national and local level to help protect farmers, their livestock and possessions, all underpinned by solid legislation.”
Bob Henderson, NFU Mutual lead on Rural Crime, said: “We know that specialist police support is highly effective in tackling rural crime. Since NFU Mutual funded and set up a dedicated agricultural vehicle theft unit in 2010 it has shared intelligence, delivered training, and worked with police forces across the country and overseas to seize millions of pounds of stolen machinery. This team is now part of the new Rural Crime Unit which will strengthen work at a national level so that specialist police resources can be targeted where they are needed most to protect farmers and the wider rural community. We are proud to be the primary funders of the new unit and wish it every success in its work.”
Head of the National Rural Crime Unit, Superintendent Andy Huddleston, said: “I am grateful to the NFU and NFU Mutual in helping us host this first ever meeting of all rural crime operational Inspectors from across all regions of the UK.
“The many rural crime leads at this meeting are doing great work across the UK both operationally and strategically to tackle these crimes, however, we accept the need and want to do more.
“In the face of increasing thefts around machinery and GPS thefts, as well as instances of livestock theft and fly-tipping, there is an urgent need to improve co-ordination and partnership problem solving, regionally and nationally, as well as sharing the many instances of best practice such as Rural Watch, Partnerships Against Rural Crime and Rural Crime Volunteers.
“The newly formed National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU) is designed to do this and support UK police forces combat the organised crime groups that target rural communities.”