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Rural crime falling in south west
NEW figures show that rural crime in the south west totalled an estimated £5.6 million in 2012 – a drop of £2 million from 2011.
The figures from rural insurer NFU Mutual reveal the cost of ‘agri-crime’ fell by 20 per cent across the country to an estimated £42.3 million.
South West NFU Mutual agent Simon Whattler said: “Even though rural crime has fallen, much more still needs to be done to thwart rural criminals.
“We’re starting to see the benefits from communities working hard with the police and wider industry. However, people shouldn’t become complacent.”
Bridport Police Inspector Mike Darby said the Safer Neighbourhood Teams and the Stop that Thief campaign had both been instrumental in bringing crime figures down. He said: “My Safer Neighbourhood teams work very closely with West Dorset NFU, especially around crime prevention and advising farmers about how they can safeguard their property, in association with the Stop That Thief campaign.
“If any rural business wants crime prevention advice please contact your local Safer Neighbourhood Team.”
While there has been a significant fall in claim costs for tractor and quad bike thefts, which are down 32 per cent and 17 per cent respectively, they still account for a third of all thefts by value.
In contrast 2012 saw an increase in livestock theft, but locally there have been no reports in several years, said Insp Darby.
Insp Darby added that gangs do go around rural locations scouting for property to take and police are keen to gather more information on them.
He said: “They snoop around and see if there is anything worth stealing. If challenged they will come up with an excuse why there are there.
“We have recently charged a number of people with offences of this nature and are very keen to speak to anyone with information on people who are committing these offences.”
Thefts of garden furniture, ornaments and stone have also been identified in the NFU survey as emerging trends over the last year.
NFU Mutual believes some thefts in particular are likely to be repeated as the criminals return within weeks to plunder the replacements.
The results of the survey also indicate that prevention is better than cure, with high-tech security measures like CCTV and tracker devices, as well as more traditional, physical security measures such as locks are more effective than a greater police presence or tougher sentencing for criminals.
Some of the more unusual defence mechanisms used by NFU Mutual members include keeping geese, housing louder and more aggressive animals such as llamas in with other livestock, or installing fog machines to disorientate intruders and retractable cattle grids to keep uninvited vehicles out.
* According to the NFU Mutual Rural Crime Survey, tools still rank as top of the list for thefts, followed by ATVs and quad bikes, oil and diesel, machinery, garden equipment, livestock, vehicles, metal, tractors and trailers.