1. ITV Report

Costs of rural thefts increase in the West Country

Rural crimes cost the West Country £5.6million in 2016. Photo: ITV West Country

New figures released today, 14 August, reveal that despite a 4% drop in the number of crimes last year, the cost of rural theft has risen in the first half of 2017.

In the West Country, rural crime cost to £5.3million, rising to £5.6million in 2016.

The report was released by the National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance company, who also say they have seen an increase in cost claims of over 20% in the first half of this year.

Local farmer, Tom Newth, has been farming in Somerset for generations. So when over 70 of his Charollais sheep were stolen earlier this year, he told ITV West Country, it had a big impact.

Tom Newth, a Farmer from Somerset, said the theft of over 70 of his sheep had a big impact. Credit: ITV West Country

It’s just not a very nice feeling knowing that all your hard work and all the money you’ve spent has gone towards somebody else.

For the amount of livestock or machinery or bits and pieces that are on farms, farmers can’t keep everything under lock and key. You can do as much as you can to deter people but you can never lock everything up. It’s only a case of cutting a padlock.

People are obviously watching what’s about and knowing different ways and different things how to get around the system and they’re obviously doing that."

– Tom Newth, Farmer
increase in rural crime in 2017.

Farmers have taken up different methods in an attempt to solve rural crime, with some saying they want to turn their homes into fortresses.

Others have merely praised a joint initiative in Avon & Somerset, called the Rural Crime Forum. It was set up five years ago and links the police with farmers, landowners, young farmers and also unions.

Robert Killen, Chairman of the Rural Crime Forum. Credit: ITV West Country

No-one can underestimate just how much rural crime affects the farmers. There’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a general fear of crime. It’s particularly important that the general public, the farmers, the rural community all work together and if they see something they report it to the police so that we can act on it accordingly.

So I think it’s a very proactive approach we’ll all take with the police going forward."

– Robert Killen, The Rural Crime Forum Chairman
Supt. Mike Prior, Rural Crime Lead for Avon and Somerset Police. Credit: ITV West Country

The partnership we have, the Rural Crime Forum, really helps the police understand the issue, understand how significant it is for rural crime and also some of the solutions in terms of targeting the people responsible for it and prosecuting them.

It’s getting easier and easier as technology improves to have really strong preventions to prevent people from coming on and stealing stuff from your farm or your stables. So that’s really important and the Rural Crime Forum helps us with that."

– Supt. Mike Prior, Avon and Somerset Police Rural Crime Lead
Tom Newth says he is not Credit: ITV West Country

Tom Newth says he is not "beaten" by the thieves, as he counts his blessings including the success his prize-winning animals have brought him at this summer’s agricultural shows.

I had a split second that I thought that I’m never going to get what I want back out of the Charollais so I did think I’d go and try a commercial flock. But in the end it sort of gives you a bit more drive to not be beaten really."

– Tom Newth, Farmer