Rural crime: what you can do to help

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Rural crime is up and it’s a big worry for farmers. Did you know that rural crime costs the UK £49.9 million a year?

We can all play a part keeping our eyes and ears open to prevent instances of rural crime, reduce opportunist theft and ensure the countryside remains an attractive and safe place to be. Farms are often targeted with machinery, livestock and even diesel oil being stolen, farmers can feel vulnerable and any theft can really impact on their ability to produce food and keep the countryside beautiful. It is not only theft though, instances of fly-tipping and illegal animal activity such as hare coursing is also on the increase.

What you can do to help?

If you’re out and about in the countryside, be observant and report anything that seems odd and unusual.

You can either call the dedicated Rural Crime Reporting Line on 0800 783 0137 or visit to give information anonymously about one of these four crimes:

Do not intervene if you see something suspicious, but take photos as evidence if it’s safe to do so?.

When should I call this number?

You can call the dedicated Rural Crime Reporting Line to give information anonymously about any one of the four crime types listed above, after the crime has been committed.

If a crime is in progress, there is an emergency, when there is danger to life or when violence is being used, you should call 999 immediately. If you don't need an emergency response, you can call 101.

The NFU's Rural Crime Report was launched in July 2017. It calls for MPs to ask police forces to prioritise rural crime and encourage greater reporting of the issue. Read it here.

What is fly-tipping?

Large-scale, industrial fly-tipping is the illegal dumping of waste, usually on farmland. In 2015/16 there were 936,000 incidents of fly-tipping, a 4% increase since 2015/16. Waste can be costly and time consuming to remove. It’s also dangerous to human health, wildlife and livestock. When fly-tipping takes place on private land, it is the landowner’s responsibility to remove the dumped waste often at great cost.

Fly-tipping affects two thirds of farmers; it blights our countryside and provides a huge problem for landowners as it’s their responsibility to pay for the costly removal. Rupert, a farmer from the West Midlands experiences fly-tipping on his land on a weekly basis. Instances have ranged from a few bags of domestic waste through to lorry loads of commercial waste.

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A lorry load of industrial waste cost £800 to remove and despite Rupert locking gates he’s still experiencing the horrors of fly-tipping on a regular basis.  Greater vigilance by all of us will reduce opportunities but as many farmers who have been victims say even when gates are locked criminals are organised and come prepared to force entry.

What is hare coursing?

Hare-coursing is the pursuit of hares with dogs, often for the purposes of betting. It takes place on areas of flat, open land where the dogs can easily and visibly pursue the hare. It is typically carried out by large groups of people who travel long distances. It is illegal under the Hunting Act but it also has other impacts, for example: fences and gates can be damaged by vehicles forcibly trying to gain access to land.

Hare coursing is barbaric and illegal but instances are on the increase, especially as we come towards late summer and fields have been harvested. Hare coursing activity can be conducted by gangs driven by gambling, who are intimidating to farmers who often work alone in fields. They not only trespass and cause damage to property and land but also impact wildlife and instances of violence have been reported.  A farmer who for obvious reasons didn’t wish to be identified says he fears for the safety of his family as the criminal gangs who hare course on his land use violence and intimidation. He cites without police support the instances are increasing and his land is being damaged by the ongoing illegal activity.

Rural crime and theft

Livestock theft can be a lucrative criminal activity due to the good prices that can often be received for cattle and sheep. The crime can range from losing hundreds of animals to just one or two. The loss of stock leads to significant financial losses and can also have further impacts on the business such as losing breeding stock.

Machinery theft: farm machinery is often expensive and the business is dependent on it. For example, a stolen tractor could mean crops can’t be harvested or a stolen quad bike means livestock can’t be fed. There isn’t a big market for second-hand farm machinery in the UK, so high value items can often be stolen to order and then sent abroad. Farmers have experienced violence when confronting thieves on their land – which is often remote and difficult to secure.

Theft in the countryside is also on the increase and it’s not just machinery being stolen. Even farmers who’ve invested in additional security suffer on-going attacks. The Scott’s who have an arable farm in the South East spent £15,000 on additional security after a violent robbery, but only six months later they were again victims with several vehicles being stolen and Mr Scott requiring hospital treatment. Animal theft is also increasing with sheep rustling a particular problem. Each week, at least one farmer falls victim, losing hundreds of livestock, which are rarely traced. The financial and emotional cost of livestock theft is huge, imagine loosing animals you’ve nurtured since birth, it’s a cruel business.  With many farms being isolated and communications sometimes poor, organised and opportunist thieves are increasingly targeting them, sometimes with violent consequences.

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Related categories: Rural crime

Last edited:06 August 2019 at 16:29

Have your say

Janet Tanner-Tremaine - 24/07/2019 20:53:00

Would it be a good idea for farmers to be connected by short-wave radio to other farmers in their area to warn of suspicious characters they may have spotted? Also, cow-grids at entrance gates with a row of bollards that can only be let down when someone who has access to the farm uses a code or remote controlled gadget - like are seen on TV at entrances to stately homes? Just suggestions to help stop farmers being robbed which is very distressing for them and their families and loyal staff too.

jackie Hibbert - 11/04/2019 19:05:34

We need to work together with the police and need their support at all times

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