Rural crime cost UK business around £49.5m during 2022, according to NFU Mutual’s 2023 Crime Report, which represents an annual increase of 22%. The isolated nature of many farms, residences and other businesses in remote locations means that they can be an easy target for well organised criminal gangs.
Rural crime can have a devastating financial and emotional impact on victims and their families, and also have negative consequences for the local community. Here are some tips on identifying and preventing rural crime.
- Theft of valuable equipment and machinery
Criminal gangs often target expensive agricultural equipment such as tractors, quad bikes, and combine harvesters. Increasingly, valuable tractors are tracked through the manipulation of GPS technology and then sold to order overseas. Gang members may lurk in and around the premises to assess the level of security in place.
They may attempt to visit a site in person under the pretence of asking for directions, and use the opportunity to identify items to potentially steal. Be vigilant for any strange vehicles or persons in the area and consider installing CCTV systems around the perimeter of the property.
Surveillance cameras act as a deterrent to intruders, and can also increase the chances of stolen property being recovered in the event of a theft occurring. Motion sensor activated security lighting can also be used to enhance the clarity of night time footage, as well as acting as a further deterrent to criminals.
The NFU also advises keeping vehicles and keys securely locked away when not in use, and keeping photographic evidence of vehicles and serial numbers to help with recovery in the worst case scenario.
- Theft of livestock
Rustling of sheep, cattle and horses is a lucrative criminal activity as the price of food rises worldwide. The NFU advises padlocking all gates and installing alarms on fences and gates for extra protection. The stock should be clearly marked with accurate and up to dates records kept at all times.
- Involve the local community
Rural communities are tight knit and it is beneficial to ask locals to be vigilant for any signs of suspicious activity, such as strange vehicles lurking or breaches to fences or walls, or unknown persons making door to door calls under the pretence of selling or carrying out surveys or tasks.
Consider setting up a neighbourhood watch system to have a formal support system in place for reporting suspicious activity and notifying the relevant authorities if possible. Social media is also a valuable tool for spreading awareness and information, and for posting details of any thefts that have occurred.
- Consider installing access control points
Larger rural farms and businesses can benefit from access control systems that enable site managers to monitor and restrict who is on the premises at all times. Card readers, fobs, touchpads, or biometric access systems can be installed for this purpose.
This ensures that no unauthorised personnel have the opportunity to snoop around and scope out targets for crime.
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