'It's a massive issue': Rural crime impact in the East revealed in new National Farmers' Union survey

  • Watch this report by ITV Anglia's Hannah Pettifer


The impact of rural crime on families and farms across the East has been revealed in a new survey from the National Farmers' Union (NFU).

Hundreds of people from across the region took part with some describing the crime as an additional tax on their business because they have had to spend money on security.

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51%

of farmers questioned said they did not feel safe

In the past year, Bill Baker has had £60,000 worth of equipment stolen from his farm near Bury St Edmunds.

He has since had to change his way of working by putting gates on the farm entrance, locking the vehicles up every night and installing CCTV.

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On a daily basis we are challenged by illegal hare coursing, chasing deer - they leave a terrible mess all over the fields. The other big one for us is fly-tipping. 3 or 4 years ago it was very rare and now it wouldn't be too extreme to say we have a fly-tipping event every week. Huge cleanup costs, huge frustrations to suddenly find a huge heap of rubbish in your field entrance. These people need tracking down. It's the most hideous anti-social crime in our countryside.

Bill Baker, Farmer

Bill was one of 340 people in East Anglia to take part in an NFU survey to assess the impact rural crime is having on the community.

64%

of those surveyed believed crime had increased over the past year

54%

said the police resources allocated to rural crime are insufficient

The most common crimes reported in the survey included hare coursing, fly-tipping and theft. The average financial loss per farm being just over £5,000.



The NFU says many farmers appreciate the efforts of the police but feel their rural teams are underfunded and under-resourced.

I speak to farmers daily on all sorts of different matters and rural crime comes up all the time. It's a massive issue and farming is often quite an isolated lonely way of life. Long hours, lone working in fields and when people are the victim of rural crime they can feel quite vulnerable actually. It's not just the financial cost, it's the psychological cost of being targeted and vulnerable and intimidated sometimes.

Charles Hesketh, NFU
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Suffolk police says its team of four rural crime officers engage regularly with farmers and landowners.

They also train other officers on issues such as hare coursing and hunting to broaden the force's understanding of this type of crime.

Nearly two-thirds of farmers in the region have reported putting extra security measures in place, locking field entrances, digging ditches around fields.

This is not only to protect their business but also their livelihood.