Top tips to deter rural criminals as festive season approaches

With dark nights upon us, rural areas can provide rich pickings for criminals
Fly-tipping can also be on an industrial scale and contain dangerous and hazardous items.

With dark nights upon us, rural areas can provide rich pickings for criminals – so the CLA is issuing some top tips to help protect homes and property.

While the cost of rural crime dipped slightly overall during the pandemic, indications reveal that in 2022 thieves have been making up for lost time. And with the cost of living crisis biting and prices of essential farm equipment and fuel soaring, crime could rocket in the months ahead, so now is the time to act.

The cost of agricultural vehicle theft claims stands at more than £9m a year in the UK, as organised criminal gangs target farmyards for high-value tractors, GPS systems and trailers. Quad and ATV theft cost £2m, with incidents usually peaking in the winter months.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) represents thousands of farmers, landowners and rural businesses. The organisation is in regular contact with police forces to ensure the problem of rural crime is not ignored. We work with rural task forces, farm watch schemes and the National Rural Crime Network, and encourage farmers, land managers and landowners to record and report suspicious vehicles and activity in their area.

CLA South East works across Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight. Regional Director Tim Bamford said: “We might be approaching the season of goodwill, but criminals will think nothing of taking advantage of this time of year.

“Under reporting makes rural crime figures look less of a problem and this reduces the likelihood of police resources being focused on the issue, so we would urge any victims to report their experiences, including any suspicious activity, to the police.”

Here are some of our tips:

Homes: Do not leave any keys in sight of doors and windows (which should be locked). It is not uncommon for thieves to ‘fish’ for keys through letter boxes or small open windows.

Oil theft: Basic security measures such as making the tank difficult to access, well-lit and locked can discourage the potential thief.

Online fraud: Watch out for fraudsters telephoning and posing as your bank or another trusted organisation. The message is clear: never give personal or bank details over the phone even if you think it is genuine.

Poaching and wildlife crime: At this time of year, food rises to the top of everyone’s wish list and poachers are no exception, so make sure it is difficult for them to access your land. As well as the damage caused to property and wildlife, any meat or fish sold on could be unfit for human consumption. So be sure that you know where your food comes from. Do not challenge poachers yourself but call the police via 999.

Business burglary: Criminals know many businesses close over the holidays, so double check all doors and windows are locked, set alarms and make sure security lights are working.

Fly-tipping: Over the festive season all that Christmas wrapping, trees and old white goods and electrical items need to be disposed of, but unfortunately some people do not wish to pay or simply cannot be bothered to dispose of such waste responsibly. Fly-tipping can also be on an industrial scale and contain dangerous and hazardous items, so please report any incidents to the police if in progress or your local authority.

If you see anything suspicious, or are a victim of crime it is vital you report it by calling police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

For more information about the CLA and its work, visit and follow @CLASouthEast on Twitter.