Farmers in the East Midlands have seen a surge in fly-tipping, trespass, hare coursing and theft with regional crime costing farm businesses thousands.
Hundreds of farmers took part in the NFU’s national rural crime survey and said they wanted to see more police resources put into tackling the issue in the countryside.
In the East Midlands, more than 150 farmers and growers responded with nearly half -45% - experiencing one crime or more last year.
And crime cost East Midlands farmers far more than any other region, with an average financial loss of more than £7,600 - the next nearest being the West Midlands at £5,463.
The survey also showed that security at regional farm businesses has been beefed up with East Midlands farmers splashing out more than £5,500 on crime prevention and security on average.
As well as the usual lines of communication with police officers, 28% of farmers revealed they were turning to mobile phone WhatsApp groups to report rural crime and pass on intelligence - although 78% said they did not have regular contact with the police other than when reporting incidents.
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 (PCC) elections on 6 May.
James Peck, NFU East Midlands communications adviser, 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, introducing additional security measures to 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.
“We do work closely with the police in our area and have seen some excellent results from their respective rural crime teams and more than half, 55%, of those who took part in the survey said they did not experience any crime in 2020.”
Mr Peck added: “Crimes like hare coursing, fly-tipping, dog attacks on livestock and theft of large and small machinery have left rural residents feeling more vulnerable. They also have knock-on effects on farm businesses.
“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 findings 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 all PCC candidates to recognise the severity of the issue and commit to prioritising rural crime as a strategic objective in their Police and Crime Plan.