The Association is reminding farmers and landowners that October and November are statistically the two months in the year where police receive more reports of burglaries than any other time – but CLA South East Director, Robin Edwards, says he wants to stress the fact that the fight against rural crime is a two-way street which requires action from the rural population as well as the police.
"Remote rural areas present plentiful opportunity for thieves. Isolated houses and buildings, less lighting, fewer witnesses and the ease of being able to watch the owner's movements all add up to a very attractive target for thieves – and each year, as soon as the clocks go back, we seem to experience a spike in crime in the countryside. This winter, with higher heating oil costs and people already struggling to pay bills, we are concerned that we could see a bigger increase than usual."
But, he warned, relying on the farm dog was not enough.
"Beating rural crime will involve farmers and landowners taking some ownership of the problem and ensuring that they have taken every possible precaution to make the criminals' lives difficult. Protecting property need not be complicated but it does need to be effective."
Top of the rural crime list – which is estimated to cost farmers and landowners more than £50 million a year – is the theft of machinery, such as quad bikes and other transportable equipment. Mr Edwards says that owners can have a real impact on this by reviewing their security arrangements, fitting better locks and ensuring that their machines have trackers fitted. Sheep and cattle rustling, fly tipping, hare coursing, poaching and metal theft all feature on the rural crime hit list.
"People can always get crime prevention advice from their local police forces, but individuals also need to think about what they can do. We suggest they take a look around and look for weak or vulnerable spots such as areas in permanent darkness or whether their oil tank is secure and whether equipment such as strimmers and chain saws are marked and locked away.
"Although crime in general is falling, rural crime is on the increase – even though we know that it is being under-reported. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy but if we want to get rid of the scourge of rural crime then we have to meet it head on and have confidence in the police to deal with it and make sure we report it to them when it happens."