New analysis by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), has revealed that police forces across England and Wales are failing to recognise the detrimental effects of rural crime.
The category, which includes fly-tipping, machine or livestock theft, hare coursing and vandalism of farm infrastructure, is estimated to cost the economy around £44.5 million a year.
The research scrutinised the activities of 38 rural police forces across England and Wales and showed:
- More than a third (37%) lack a dedicated rural crime strategy;
- Nearly two-fifths (39%) do not have a rural crime team; and
- Only 10 forces (28%) deliver rural crime training for new recruits.
It also revealed that more than one in four (27%) do not have a police officer of inspector rank or above leading rural crime.
Furthermore, only around half (53%) of rural police forces across England and Wales have dedicated rural crime prevention tools, such as 4x4s, trail bikes, night vision equipment or drones.
The analysis builds on previously published figures which show the average cost of a rural crime incident is £4,800, with each fly-tipping occurrence costing more than £1,000 to clear up.
Half of rural business owners state that crime has a “moderate” to “great” impact on their lives with 60% saying they were “fairly” or “very” worried about becoming a victim of crime.
Commenting on the new figures, CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said: “That a third of rural police forces do not have a dedicated strategy or team to deal with rural crime is quite simply astounding – especially when one considers the huge financial and emotional impact it has on those who live or work in the countryside.
“Farming is a stressful business where many are working on tight margins.
Having to deal with replacing lost machinery, repairing a vandalised barn, or clearing up and bearing the cost of someone else’s fly-tipped mess, just adds unnecessary stress, eats away at meagre profits and takes up valuable time.
"All of that is before we deal with the emotional fall-out of becoming a victim of crime, which many will unfortunately know can have long-lasting repercussions on wellbeing and feeling safe in your own home.
“Clearly, budgetary constraints are an issue, and we’d like to see more forces being given the tools to combat rural crime seriously, but many have failed to match tough words and pledges to even the simplest of tangible actions. Much more needs to be done to ensure rural crime is taken with the seriousness that it should be.”
“Next year’s police commissioner elections may well see rural crime rise up the policing agenda, but there is no reason why – as a bare minimum – all rural police forces should not have a dedicated rural crime strategy in place before then.”