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  1. ITV Report

Rising cost of rural crime in the West Country

Farmer David Powers has been hit by thieves on two separate occasions. Credit: ITV News

There's a warning that our countryside is in the grip of a rural crime wave, with a sharp rise in the cost of thefts from farms, homes and businesses.

New figures show an increase of more than 13% per cent last year, the biggest rise since 2010.

13%
Rise in rural crime since last year
  • Watch: Farmers speak out over rural crime

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David Powers has been hit by criminals twice. Two tractors, a quad bike and other valuable equipment have been stolen, piling more stress onto what is already a high pressure job.

It made me feel quite angry really that somebody has the nerve to wander around and take our equipment, just because they want it.

It's quite dramatic because we use the tractors every day and we had to sort out replacements quickly for them.

We use the quad bike for shepherding so it made it more awkward for that and of course the financial implications of replacing them.

– David Powers, Farmer

Figures from the insurance company NFU Mutual show theft alone cost rural homes and businesses in the UK almost £45m last year - the highest level for four years.

£45m
Cost of theft to rural homes and businesses in the UK in 2017
James Small has had sheep attacked and killed by dogs on his farm near Cheddar. Credit: ITV West Country

Somerset farmer James Small has had sheep attacked and even killed by out of control dogs at his farm near Cheddar Gorge. Another, just a few miles away, had 30 cows and calves stolen from a field near Wookey this April.

We must remember that our businesses are also our homes. This is an invasion and a criminal act against our home and anyone who's ever had the misfortune to suffer that would know the real distress that causes and the feeling of invasion.

Sometimes farms are seen as being a soft target because of their potential isolation but actually many farms are doing things now to combat this with different deterrent measures being put in place. CCTV, Farmwatch schemes which is actually in conjunction with the police, We're partnership working, where we're all trying to work together to try to bring these people to justice and stop and prevent crime happening in the first place.

– James Small, Farmer

In the South West, farmers and police work in partnership on the Rural Crime Forum, to try to reduce the impact, particularly where organised crime is involved.

It's not just the cost in financial terms. This is a way of life. This is not just a business so a lot of the work we're going to be doing, certainly here in Avon and Somerset, is making sure those top end victims, vulnerable victims, repeat victims are supported as best as we can and that is reflected, when we do catch somebody, about the impact on them.

– Sgt ANDY MURPHY, Avon & Somerset Police

One major side-effect of farmyards becoming crime scenes is the fear that the welcoming atmosphere of the countryside could be under threat.

Credit: ITV West Country