Rural law-breaking may have been pegged back by the pandemic, but it hasn't gone away. With perpetrators becoming more devious and new worries such as online fraud, farmers must stay one step ahead and be proactive to keep their property and assets safe and secure.
Rural crime remains a significant challenge across the UK. While the COVID-19 pandemic restricted the activities of criminals, with numerous lockdowns, the problem hasn't gone away.
The cost of theft runs into tens of millions, with many of the victims of rural crime being farmers and landowners whose livelihoods continue to be regularly impacted by theft of machinery and livestock, malicious property damage and other illegal acts.
Tactics and types of crime seem to be evolving. Thieves are thinking bigger, with high-value items such as smart technology, quad bikes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) being specifically targeted. As many council refuse sites closed down or became more difficult to access during lockdown, fly tipping increased. And with a huge increase in dog ownership over the past eighteen months plus more staycations and visits to the UK countryside, attacks on livestock have risen sharply. Theft of working dogs is also a growing concern, with some farms losing several animals at a time.
New technology is also helping criminals be more effective. Gangs known as 'rural wraiths' are using super-quiet e-scooters to sneak onto farms. They steal valuable items, such as GPS equipment, then shoot off into the night with hardly a sound. Costing anything from £4,000 to £10,000 or more, GPS technology is an essential tool in modern farming and the impact of being without a vital piece of kit, even for a few days, can be significant, delaying essential work such as harvesting.
To guard against GPS theft, some farmers remove the devices and store them securely at night. But if you do this, it's worth checking your insurance policy. Some insurers don't provide cover if the equipment is not attached to the vehicle and the loss may not be covered under your Motor Insurance Policy, while other insurers arrangements may also not pick up the loss. If your GPS devices carry security codes, we’d recommend using them, and where possible, mark them with a security mark or even your postcode.
Like anybody else in today's digitally driven world, farmers can also fall victim to cybercrime. Online criminals are becoming ever-more devious and, when you're logging on to your computer at the end of a tiring day, it's easy to be caught out by a phishing email or banking scam. The golden rule is to treat every communication you receive with care and think before you click.
A hidden problem
A crime that can often sneak under the radar is hare coursing. Despite being banned in 2004, it remains a costly and distressing problem for thousands of farmers, across the UK. Not only is it a cruel blood sport, it can cause major damage to crops, fences and gates. The internet has helped turn it from a poacher's pursuit to a serious online gambling and entertainment business, with encryption allowing coursing activity to be livestreamed to spectators.
Whilst perhaps a less known element of rural crime, its awareness in the Eastern region has recently seen a surge, with local police forces joining together to tackle the issue.
Focusing on prevention
While agricultural crime can sadly seem like an inevitable occupational hazard for farmers, there are several measures you can take to assist in protecting your property, land and livestock.
Making things difficult for criminals can be a simple deterrent. Whilst not an exhaustive list, this can include having robust padlocks on gates, blocking unauthorised access to fields and woodland, installing security lights with motion sensors in yards and drives, and ensuring vehicles are locked and the keys removed, even if you're only leaving them unattended for a short period of time.
It's also a good idea to keep details of all your vehicles and other valuable equipment in a safe, convenient place. Take pictures of them and record their serial numbers, so that you have all the info at hand in case of a theft.
With advances in technology, more sophisticated security equipment is now relatively affordable. A professionally installed CCTV system with infra-red cameras and an alarm system linked to your mobile phone is the premium option, but there are also entry-level DIY kits available for just a few hundred pounds. Some of the more expensive systems feature the option to have ANPR camera technology which will record vehicle number plates.
To help with reporting crime, it's worth considering downloading the what3words app, which can help save time in identifying your location to emergency services.
Peace of mind
Whatever safeguards you put in place, unfortunately there's always the risk that you'll fall victim to agricultural crime. That's why it makes sense to have comprehensive insurance cover in place and give yourself peace of mind. At Longfields we have strong roots in the farming industry and specialise in providing insurance solutions tailored to the needs of today's farmers. We work closely with clients to make sure they have the right types and levels of cover in place, and we can also provide valuable advice and suggestions on security and crime prevention.
Speak to us today on 01473 784500 or 01206 396000 and find out how Longfields can help you.