The National Rural Crime Network (NRCN), a coalition of Police and Crime Commissioners, has released the results of its first ever major rural crime survey.
Their press release states that the “survey of over 17,000 people living and working in rural areas throughout England and Wales suggests the true cost of crime in rural areas could exceed £800m. This figure is 21 times higher than previous figures, dwarfing earlier estimates.
“The survey also indicates that farmers and hard-pressed young families are the most frequent victims of crime, with the average cost of those crimes to a household being over £2,500 and for a business over £4,000.
“Moreover, there appears to be a vicious circle of low expectations, leading to chronic under-reporting, anger, frustration and worry. The result is increasing fear of crime and significantly lower satisfaction levels in the police than the national average”.
The NRCN was set up in July 2014 and is supported by 30 police and crime commissioners and police forces across England and Wales. The network also includes a wide range of other bodies with a deep interest in community safety and rural affairs, with the NFU represented on the executive board and NFU Mutual also supporting.
NFU senior planning and rural affairs adviser Suzanne Clear said: “We already know that our farming members suffer at the hands of rural crime, whether that is machinery and livestock theft to fly-tipping and from perpetrators using increasingly sophisticated methods.
“It is important that the NRCN uses its survey information to develop a robust plan of action to help reduce the impacts of rural crime on farm businesses and the wider community. Each crime, no matter how small or large, can have a potentially devastating effect on the victims. We also need an environment where our members feel they can report crimes and will be listened to rather than suffering in silence or for their reports to be swept aside.”
The key survey results were:
- Financial impact of crime on rural economy is significant – the cost of crime to rural communities is estimated to be £800 million1 equivalent to £200 for every household in the countryside. The average cost to rural households who are victims of crime is £2500 and £4100 for rural businesses.
- Fear of crime is increasing – 39% of rural people are very or fairly worried about becoming a victim of crime, compared to 19% nationally. Even more worryingly, 32% of respondents are more fearful of becoming victims of crime than five years ago, compared to only 3% who are less fearful. Rural businesses are the most fearful of becoming victims of crime, with 51% very or fairly fearful, closely followed by younger families.
- Low satisfaction rates of police performance in rural areas – just 39% of rural people rate the police as good (32.4%) or excellent (6.3%). Among rural businesses this figure was just 32%. Those figures compare to 63% nationally who think the police is doing a good job (53% Good and 10% Excellent), showing rural communities have a significantly lower satisfaction rate than their urban counterparts. The survey showed satisfaction levels drop to just 23% when it comes to the rural public’s perceptions of the police’s ability to solve crime.
- Crime is under reported in rural areas – more than one in four (27%) did not report the last crime of which they were a victim. This means Home Office figures of 294,000 rural crimes between April 2014 and May 2015 could be incorrect and the actual number of crimes could be as high as 403,000.
- Rural communities are resilient – community spirit is clear to see in our rural communities. The vast majority feel they very or fairly strongly belong in their community, with 27% feeling that sense of belonging has increased in the last five years. 25% of people also felt that their community pulled together to improve their neighbourhood
- Lessons for Local Authorities and other partners – two issues of greatest concern to the rural community were road safety (63%) – which the police play a crucial part in, but which they cannot resolve without working with partners – and fly-tipping, which is now a civil offence (61%).