Farming leaders are calling for rural crime to be a priority following the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections earlier this month and have pointed out that with many farm businesses also home for farmers and their families, rural crime can make victims feel unsafe and vulnerable.

Machinery theft, fly-tipping, dog attacks on livestock and hare coursing cost the UK £49.5 million in 2022 alone, according to figures put forward in the NFU Mutual’s Rural Crime Report for 2023.

In an open letter to every newly elected PCC, the NFU set out a number of key recommendations to address rural crime, including:

  • Ensuring priorities for addressing rural crime are detailed in the PCC’s Police & Crime Plan
  • Recruiting a dedicated rural crime specialist
  • Engaging regularly with the farming community and its representatives
  • Delivering effective response to, and investigation of, crimes impacting farm businesses
  • Working with farm businesses on effective crime prevention strategies
  • Developing a strategy to counter the impact of organised crime groups operating in rural areas
  • Providing greater rural crime training for officers and control centres.

NFU East Sussex chair Martin Hole, who farms organic livestock with his family in the county, said: “Farmers in East Sussex do have a lot of issues with rural crime, particularly with things like theft, trespassing, fly-tipping and dog attacks on livestock.

“A major concern with rural crime is that many people in rural areas are extremely isolated and so the issues are magnified. We have a good working relationship with the police and the PCC. We need that good work to continue and for rural crime to be a top priority.” 

The NFU’s Manifesto, a document of key asks of all political parties ahead of the next general election, calls for a consistent and coordinated response to rural crime across government and police forces.

This includes fair funding for rural policing, a dedicated rural crime team in every police force in the country and the formation of a cross-departmental rural crime task force to address the failures in dealing with rural crime.

NFU Vice President Rachel Hallos said: “The public clearly values the pressing need for action against rural crime, with nearly three-quarters of the public calling for it to be treated more seriously by the police” (according to survey data collected on behalf of the NFU).