The increasing truth about rural crime in Suffolk

In terms of rural crime, Suffolk is the fifth worst affected county in the country, with rural crime resulting in insurance claims totalling £1,178,428 in 2021. From diesel theft to rustling, and from fly-tipping to machinery theft, rural crime is an enormous problem for our county.

But rural crime statistics, taken at face value, might lead you to believe that rural crime is decreasing. However, this is only because of the pandemic’s effect when there was a dip in the data. In reality, and as data in 2022 is proving, rural crime is very much on the increase, and we need to do more to protect our rural communities.

David Blackwell, senior agent at NFU Mutual Bury St Edmunds stated,

“Our latest claims figures warn that rural theft is quickly gathering momentum as criminals make up for time lost over the past two pandemic years. We’re advising rural people to review their security, to help prevent crime and disruption.”

We’ve got a worrying trend in front of us. If we don’t want to return to 2018 reports, where 69% of farmers and rural-specific business owners were victims of crimes, then we need to take action.

The most recent data is the NFU Mutuals’ Rural Crime Report with data from the first quarter of 2022, so it’s likely that things are worse still. However, already we saw that rural crime costs were up 40% on the previous year. Just one example is that Land Rover Defender theft had risen an eye-watering 87% in just a year!

Types of rural crime

Rural crime doesn’t have a set definition, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. While of course there are opportunistic individuals involved, a lot of rural crime is in fact linked to Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) specifically targeting areas. Rural crime priorities for the police include:

  • Theft of farm machinery, vehicles and plant equipment

Agricultural vehicle theft reported to NFU Mutual exceeded £9 million in 2021.

  • Livestock offences including rustling

£2.4 million worth of animals were stolen in 2021.

  • Fuel theft

49% of respondents to the Rural Crime Report stated they were most concerned about fuel theft. The number of fuel theft claims doubled in the first half of this year compared to last.

  • Equine crime
  • Fly tipping

Local authorities in England dealt with 1.13 million fly-tipping incidents in 2020/21, up 16% on the year before.

In addition to these police priorities, we would also point out that rural burglaries, including burglaries of outbuildings, are also a significant problem.

In reality, police involvement in rural crime is rarely enough. For example, fly-tipping on private land is estimated to cost between £50m to £150 million according to the National Fly-Tipping Prevention Group (NFTPG). Police are increasingly prosecuting, but the average fine for fly-tippers averaged just £335 in 2020/21 – it’s little deterrent.

Why is rural crime increasing?

The pandemic saw us all ‘stay home’. That included thieves and criminals – at least to some degree. It was always likely that figures would increase once the pandemic restrictions were lifted. However, there are other factors which are pushing up rural crime.

The Cost of Living Crisis is perhaps the biggest current driver. Fuel cost rises have been intense making theft more appealing. Supply issues remaining from the pandemic, as well as costs, mean that machinery and plant equipment is often stolen to order, rather than bought new.

The impact of rural crime

It’s very difficult to measure the true impact of rural crime on individuals and communities. However, the impacts include financial loss, inconvenience and additional working time, but it also has a knock-on effect with farming families feeling intimidated and vulnerable. The farming community is under increasing pressures from other angles, so these effects cannot be underestimated.

What can be done about rural crime in Suffolk and beyond?

Rural crime is incredibly difficult to police. As stated above with the fly-tipping example, even when offenders are prosecuted, the consequences are rarely sufficient to deter criminals. It remains that the biggest difference you can make is increasing your security, preventing crimes in your area altogether.

Suffolk Police advises that those in rural areas should “consider fitting security alarms and CCTV systems to protect your farm, equipment and vehicles.” We offer cost-effective CCTV-monitoring services, allowing you to get on with the business of your farm, without needing to divert manpower.

We recognise that there are unique security challenges in rural areas. Criminals are often able to work uninterrupted and without risk of being caught, simply because of the rural environs. In addition to CCTV, a fundamental way that you can keep your farm property secure is to use regular and random mobile security patrols, particularly during quieter times such as at night. Highly visible patrols deter would-be criminals, and potentially catch them in the act. Using mobile security patrols makes it much harder for criminals to plan crimes. If your security is high, they will go elsewhere.

Let us help protect you

At Abbey Security, we can help to ensure that your rural business in Suffolk is safe and secure. We currently work with estates, farmers and equine establishments to provide mobile security patrols throughout Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. This brings you peace of mind and may even help reduce your insurance premiums. Get in touch on 01284 768832 to learn more about how we can help.

Posted on September 9, 2022

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