Revealed: Rising cost of rural crime in Norfolk

Nationally, rural crime figures have increased by 5.2%.  PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Nationally, rural crime figures have increased by 5.2%. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Tuesday, August 12, 2014
10:20 AM

A survey monitoring the cost of rural crime has identified East Anglia as the worst affected region in the UK with agricultural offences costing the economy an estimated £8.5m in 2013 – with a rise of 12%.

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Most common items targeted by thieves

The most common items targeted by thieves in the region over the past year were tools, machinery and fuel such as domestic heating oil and ‘red’ diesel.

More than half of staff interviewed from hundreds of NFU Mutual offices in rural communities around the country also said they had seen customers suffer repeat crimes or had high-value items stolen.

Although high-value thefts may be planned and highly-organised, the number of stolen garden tools and ornaments indicates opportunist thieves continue to target gardens and outbuildings.

Alex Forbes, an NFU Mutual agent, said: “The cost of claims is increasing as a result of more high-value items being stolen. That’s why it’s important to stay vigilant and fight rural crime.”

Rural crime is on the up and nowhere has that rise been felt more sharply than in our region, with Norfolk and Suffolk both among the counties to have experienced an increase in the cost of agricultural offences.

• Click here to see our rural crime graphic.

According to NFU Mutual, who conducted the annual nationwide survey, the cost of farm-related crime in Norfolk has risen by 2% to £910,000 in 2013 compared to £890,000 the year before.

In Suffolk the increase was even more dramatic, with rural crime costing £1.5m in 2013 compared to £1.1m the year before.

The figures are in line with the picture nationally where there is reported to have been a 5.2% rise in the cost of crime in 2013 to £44.5m following a 19% fall in 2012.

The rises come despite a number of high-profile initiatives, like Norfolk police’s Operation Randall, which have been launched to help tackle the issue.

The most common items targeted by thieves in the eastern counties over the past 12 months were tools, machinery and fuel, such as domestic heating oil and farmers’ supplies of ‘red’ diesel.

A spokesman from NFU Mutual said one of the most notable trends in the east was the theft of high-value machinery, like tractors, by organised crime gangs who can steal them to order.

He said: “The most common kind of things targeted are the smaller items such as power tools or fuel but higher value items are particularly prevalent in East Anglia.

“Because there are so many arable farms they need to use high-value technology.

“It’s high-value technology which is stolen by organised crime gangs. We’ve also seen a couple of new trends such as chemical thefts which can be extremely expensive but are not too bulky and are being taken away for re-sale.”

The issue of rural crime has been a particular focus for Norfolk police, which in 2010 launched Operation Randall, an initiative aimed at driving down the number of offences with the help and support of the agricultural community.

David Cracknell, who is a director of Farmwatch Ltd – which this year celebrates its 20th year of helping police to keep an eye on rural crime in the county – said the figures confirmed the impression that there had been a marked increase in crime.

Mr Cracknell said Farmwatch – similar to Homewatch but for farmers – had seen a sizeable increase in the number of people requesting increased security measures like gates and CCTV.

He urged all members of the agricultural community to not only shut their gates, but also to report crimes – either to the police or themselves. “There’s still so much stuff that happens that for whatever reason the farming community accept and take on the chin without making as much noise about it as probably they should,” he added.

• For more information on rural crime, visit www.farmwatchltd.co.uk

• Have you got a crime story? Call Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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