Farmers in fear as rural crime rockets in Hertfordshire
Thieves who target rural areas in the hope of rich pickings with relatively little resistance are finding they are coming up against more determination to fight crime.
The traditional stereotype of the countryside conjures up sleepy villages which are attractive to criminals with designs on expensive farm machinery.
But the reality is that more people are waking up to the fact that their property is at risk unless they take steps to protect their homes and businesses.
However, the growing awareness has not been enough to stop the rising cost of rural crime in Herts where it is up to £750,000. The latest figures released by NFU Mutual from its latest annual claims data show the cost of rural crime in the county for 2014 is up by £220,000 on the year before.
Despite the rise in the country, the cost of rural crime is down nationally by around 15% but still stands at an alarming £37.8 million.
One local farmer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said it is very worrying problem and a sad indictment of the world we live in today.
“Rural crime is a problem,” the farmer said.
“The days of leaving doors, gates and vehicles unlocked have long gone. I’ve been a victim of crime. I’ve had my livestock trailer, chainsaw, quad bike and bicycles stolen.
“The police came around and gave me advice. I now have CCTV installed; everything has been marked with invisible coding and the vehicles can be traced wherever they are. All the doors, buildings and gates are padlocked, locked and chained.
“I feel like a jailer I carry so many keys. It’s very sad, but that’s life now.”
Tim Price, of NFU Mutual, said. “There are now padlocks on gates, security lighting in yards and in some cases CCTV. Farmers and their families are feeling incredibly vulnerable to rural crime — it has become a major obsession and affects the way they live.”
“This is an organised criminal enterprise. Before 2010, most cases were local and involved up to a dozen sheep - now 100 or more are being stolen at a time. People are coming equipped with a vehicle capable of carrying them and the skills to round them up.
“The suspicion is that at least some are being slaughtered outside the heavily regulated meat processing industry and then fed into the food chain.”
“The groups also appear to move from one area of the country to another depending on the level of awareness and police attention,” Mr Price added.
“There was a big rustling problem in Lancashire recently but after a concerted effort by farmers and the police it has fallen. Now it is rising in other areas, such as the east of England.”