In 2017, we launched our Combatting Rural Crime report asking for a consistent and coordinated approach to rural crime. One of our key asks was for the Chief Constable to ensure that each police force has a dedicated rural police team.
Monday 5 June saw an important step in realising that goal with NFU HQ hosting a major conference for the NRCU (National Rural Crime Unit). Police forces from across all four nations gathered to discuss a coherent approach to rural crime, including sharing best practice, effective tactics and managing joint operations.
Dedicated rural crime teams
The rural crime leads from across the UK and Superintendent Andy Huddleston (the Head of the NRCU) were welcomed to Stoneleigh by NFU Vice-President David Exwood.
“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," David said.
Following the first session of the event, almost every police force unit in the room confirmed they have a dedicated rural crime team; the few which still plan to develop these dedicated teams have already set up processes to ensure national police priorities on rural crime are addressed.
“Today’s conference demonstrates the importance of a collaborative approach with farmers, policymakers and police forces working together effectively.”
NFU Vice-President David Exwood
GPS theft on the rise
Superintendent Huddleston discussed the recent upsurge in thefts of tractor GPS units with every police force in the room indicating that they have dealt with such thefts.
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.
The Superintendent praised the wok of rural crime leads across the UK but acknowledged “the need and want to do more”. He said there is “an urgent need to improve co-ordination and partnership problem solving, regionally and nationally” and that the “newly formed NRCU is designed to do this and support UK police forces to combat the organised crime groups that target rural communities”.
Bob Henderson, NFU Mutual lead on Rural Crime explained how NFU Mutual has set up a dedicated agricultural vehicle theft unit and has collaborated with police forces to seize “millions of pounds worth 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.”
Legal deterrent continues progress through Parliament
Greg Smith MP discussed his Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill that aims to ensure security measures must be included on quad bikes at point of sale. The NFU has been working closely with the Home Office on the new Bill, along with NFU Mutual, and other key stakeholders.
The Bill is currently passing through the Committee stage in the House of Lords. You can track its progress at: GOV.UK | Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill
The Home Office has also opened a Call for Evidence on the Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill, to include a consultation on extending the Bill’s remit to cover other large agricultural equipment and power tools. The NFU will be responding with some of the technical detail that NFU advisers researched to help with the drafting of the Bill. You can also submit your views on the Bill to us by reading our quick explainer and submitting via our online form.
Greg thanked the NFU & NFU Mutual for their help and support with his Bill.