The NFU is calling for prompt, effective action to deal with the serious issue of rural crime, as new figures from the Home Office show that agriculture-related crime and anti-social behaviour has risen over the past four years.
As the sole farming representative on the Home Office steering group, the NFU succeeded in ensuring agriculture was represented in the 2017 Commercial Victimisation Survey, which is crucial to demonstrate to police and government the true extent of rural crime with up-to-date statistics from farmers.
The results show that the proportion of businesses experiencing agriculture-related crime and anti-social behaviour has risen since 2013:
· 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 force and 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.
“Nearly a year on from releasing our Rural Crime Report, the NFU has brought the issue of rural crime to the forefront of its activity. To name just two examples, the NFU has presented to all police chief constables on the seriousness of this issue and also 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, and allow farmers to do what they do best – producing food for the nation.”