The CLA represents over 6,000 farmers, landowners and rural business across the Midlands, who provide employment for many thousands more. We sit on many advisory bodies, including local and regional crime forums. We have campaigned for many years on many aspects of rural crime, including the initiative to stop untraceable cash payments by scrap yards.
Yet our members tell us that rural crime is a growing concern. They say it is not taken as seriously as it should be. They are becoming disheartened by the law enforcement process in rural areas.
The CLA is therefore asking that the new Police and Crime Commissioners put rural crime high on their agendas. Voters in the countryside will be looking closely at the emphasis that PCC candidates will be placing on rural crime and the CLA will be actively encouraging them to do so.
Rural areas can provide rich and easy pickings and there is no shortage of criminals willing to exploit this. Crime in rural areas takes many forms, and is made easier for the perpetrator by the relative isolation of homes and businesses, a maze of county lanes unmonitored by CCTV, lack of street lighting, miles of legal public access close to properties and low visible police presence. Freedom of movement and the free availability of information such as Google Earth and photographic databases makes both planning and escape all the easier.
Crime rates might appear to be lower in rural areas, but we believe this to be partly a consequence of a sparse population and a general reluctance to report crime due to perceived lack of action by a stretched and largely absent police force. Yet the reality is that, with the exception of burglary cases, crime rates in mainly urban areas are decreasing faster than in rural areas.
Crime, and the threat of crime, is a blight on rural life. Victims of rural crime can feel helpless to do anything about it. These elections are your opportunity to restore their faith in law enforcement.
All types of rural crime can have expensive and often devastating effects on rural communities and rural businesses. The consequences of the theft of a gate for example may be the escape of livestock onto a relatively busy road with the potential for injury – or worse – to road users and livestock, and loss of business. Insurance premiums are high to reflect the consequential losses but the financial compensation is rarely adequate.
Metal theft makes a huge impact on the rural economy. It is not restricted to scrap metal, farm gates, garden ornaments, roofing materials, fencing and theft of livestock, but includes power and telephone wires, cutting off communities and putting a stop to business.
The lack of mains services and the rising cost of fuel means oil and diesel tanks are prime targets. Theft of farm produce, such as fruit and vegetables is a regular occurrence and is not simply 'scrumping' but often a well organised and rewarding outing for criminals.
Construction projects in the countryside are often targeted with everything from tools, machinery and complete heating installations being removed under cover of darkness, setting projects back as well as the owners suffering the cost of replacement and delay.
Theft from farms is a particular concern due to the impact on livelihoods and the safety of employees. Vehicle and machinery theft can close down business for a period, theft of electrical and communication cabling can put lives at risk – poor mobile and broadband coverage makes the situation worse.
Contrary to perceived opinion, the cost of cleaning up fly-tipping on private land falls firmly with the landowner. Tipping often consists of rubble, garden waste and litter but can also contain dangerous materials that require specialist removal resulting in a cost of thousands of pounds. Landowners can be reluctant to clear rubbish themselves as they are unaware of the contents. The removal of waste is costing farmers and landowners £100million to £150million a year.
Arson, Damage and Vandalism
Hay barns are particularly at risk of fire, and arson is a frequent occurrence, with the closest emergency services often miles away.
Walls are damaged by vandalism and by motor vehicles, but it seems seldom that perpetrators are caught. Often it is just left to the landowner to claim on insurance, but a collapsed wall can again mean the escape of livestock, and some members are continually paying to have boundary walls repaired.
Trespass and Raves
Trespass ranges from individuals walking through crops, leaving gates open to convoys of travellers occupying whole fields for days and weeks. This is a serious problem for farmers who have to contend not simply by having their assets effectively confiscated for a period of time, but also the time and cost of the cleanup operation which can be extremely unpleasant. Often these incidents are accompanied by the threat of, or actual violence.
Poaching, Hare Coursing and otehr wildlife Crime
Wildlife crimes are a serious matter and can have a major impact on rural communities and conservation work. These are not victimless crimes, and the police will admit that perpetrators of this type of crime are often involved in more serious offences. It makes sense therefore to treat this type of crime very seriously.
We would urge Police Crime Commissioners to ensure firearms licensing is efficiently implemented, making it straightforward for those who require firearms for work or sport to keep within the law and more difficult for criminals to gain access to licences.
We therefore ask ...
that Police and Crime Commissioners publicly acknowledge the importance of rural crime
that specific strategies are put in place to deal with rural crime
for a visible increase in police in rural areas
for police forces to actively engage with rural communities
that the police are seen to take crime seriously and to investigate all rural crime leading to prosecution wherever possible
a fair allocation of funds to combat crime in the countryside
The CLA will help educate rural communities to help protect themselves from rural crime by creating awareness of security measures
The CLA will help co-ordinate liaison between the police and rural communities
The CLA will encourage its members to report crime.