The impact of rural crime on farming families and farm businesses across East Anglia is highlighted in a new member survey released today (Friday 16 April).
Hundreds of members from our region took part in the NFU’s rural crime survey, with the most common crimes experienced including hare coursing, fly tipping, theft and burglary.
Of the 252 respondents from East Anglia who were victims of crime in 2020, 10% say it has cost their business £10,000 or more. The average financial loss per farm was £5,100.
One farmer commented: “Rural crime is like an additional tax on the business, as we have constantly spent money upgrading security.”
Another told the NFU: “It is now impossible to grow food without people driving on crops and damaging them.”
The survey was conducted by phone and online by the NFU’s in-house research team to help assess the level of rural crime, ahead of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections on 6 May.
As part of the survey, members were also asked about any crime prevention measures introduced over the past five years and how they are working with the police to help tackle crime in the countryside. Worryingly, almost two thirds of respondents (64%) feel that rural crime has increased over the past year, while just over half (51%) feel not very or not at all secure from crime.
More than half (54%) feel that insufficient police resources are devoted to tackling rural crime.
Farmers are responding by taking extra crime prevention measures such as blocking field entrances (78%), digging ditches around fields (45%), upgrading building security (66%) and installing CCTV (49%).
Encouragingly, more than one third (35%) say they have regular contact with the police outside of reporting crime, including face-to-face meetings and attendance at NFU-organised events. They are also making use of new technology, including WhatsApp, to share information with the police.
NFU Regional Director Gary Ford said: “Rural crime remains a blight on the countryside. We are concerned, but sadly not surprised, that so many of our members have been affected.
“However, the survey also shows the rural community is fighting back, employing additional security measures on their farms and working more closely with the police.
“Many members appreciate the response they receive from the police on rural crime but feel that rural teams are under-funded and under-resourced.
"Crimes like hare coursing, fly-tipping, dog attacks on livestock and thefts of large and small machinery have left rural residents feeling more vulnerable. They also have much wider knock-on effects on the farm business.
"Despite this, rural areas continue to receive lower levels of police funding, per head of population, than urban areas.
“We will be using the survey results in our discussions with Police and Crime Commissioner candidates, to help ensure rural policing receives the resources it needs, and rural communities deserve.”
The NFU is asking candidates to recognise the severity of the issue and commit to prioritising rural crime as a strategic objective in their Police and Crime Plan.
The NFU rural crime survey was carried out online and via phone across 10 areas of England and Wales between 21 January and 16 March 2021. There were 1,968 respondents, including 340 from East Anglia.