Rural crime rises as thieves step up a gear

Officers from the Upper Valley Neighbourhood Policing Team are establishing a new crime-fighting network called Rural Watch
Officers from the Upper Valley Neighbourhood Policing Team are establishing a new crime-fighting network called Rural Watch

Criminals targeting farms are getting increasingly sophisticated, according to insurers .

NFU Mutual has estimated rural crime is costing Lancashire £2.1m a year, with thieves now using technology to find potential victims.

Jo Oliver, NFU Mutual’s senior agent in Lancashire said: “It’s disappointing to see Lancashire is a hotspot for rural crime in the UK with the cost for the county the second highest in the UK.

“Rural thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated and using computers rather than bolt cutters to steal from farms and country properties.

“Farmers and police have been working hard to adopt high-tech security measures to tackle the problems which now include cloning tractor identities, advertising non-existent machinery in agricultural publications and stealing the GPS computer systems which are a key part of modern farming.”

Other farmers have been targeted by less sophisticated criminals.

In December, Matilda, a life-size model cow,was stolen from Joylan Farms, in Sowerby, near St Michael’s-on-Wyre.

Three weeks ago, thieves returned and stole the replacement statue in the dead of night.

Owner, farmer Anne Swale, said: “The farm crime report isn’t a surprise because so accessible to major motorways.

“People have spray-painted over our milk bar signs, and on quite a few days of week takings are down in
 the farm shop because things are stolen.

“We get up extra early to make it look nice and stay up late to serve the public. It makes us wonder if it’s worth carrying on. It’s a sad time for the farming community. I work in an agricultural shop in the day, and farmers are always coming in saying they’ve had trailers stolen, and buying padlocks to try and protect their property.

“I think the cuts to policing have had an impact but I only have positive things to say about the police here because they really try to help us with the reduced resources they have, and it takes extra time to respond to victims in a rural area.”

Lancashire police have held various operations to tackle rural criminals.

In March, three people were arrested and 35 vehicles were stopped and checked as part of a rural crime crackdown in north Lancashire. In Ribble Valley, mounted volunteers have been recruited to help crack crime. • To report a rural crime, call 101.