It is estimated in a recent NFU report that the bill for rural crime is now more than £42.5 million annually with farmers and their families increasingly becoming victims of arson, vandalism and burglary with many experiencing fear, intimidation and threats of violence.
The result is an increasing fear of crime in rural areas, including South Holland.
The NFU has found there is no standard protocol across police forces for combating rural crime, with some forces not even treating rural crime as a serious issue.
This is leading to so-called ‘criminal tourism’, with perpetrators often travelling long distances to target farm businesses. We have certainly experienced such ‘tourism’ locally, particularly with regard to harecoursing, where those involved will travel significant distances to get to our area to commit offences.
As a result, the NFU is calling for a coordinated and consistent approach that would allow police forces to share best practice. This is particularly relevant in this area, as we often see differing tactical approaches by our neighbouring police force in Cambridgeshire.
It is clear from our recent meetings with Lincolnshire Chief Constable Bill Skelly that he is taking rural crime seriously. There has already been investment in equipment to help combat crime which often occurs far from our towns and villages.
As we head into this season’s harvest and fields being cleared, is vital we continue to convey that farmers should not be seen as a soft target for those ‘visiting’ criminals.