Rural crime affects those living, working or visiting rural areas of the UK and is any crime being committed in those rural areas.
It covers a wide range of crimes but includes theft of machinery, vehicles, heating oil, metal, diesel and pesticides. Thieves are known to target high-value agricultural equipment and many top-of-the-range stolen vehicles are smuggled out of the country, ending up in eastern Europe.
A new trend is emerging of criminals seeking out older models that are not fitted with immobilisers and alarms. Much of this stolen property is then sold to developing nations.
Although rural crime in South Staffordshire has reduced during the last 12 months by 27%, theft accounted for nearly half of all recorded crime (49.5%) which included plant, machinery and livestock.
Although residents of rural locations are considerably less likely to be victims of crime, rural crime should not be viewed as a scaled down version of urban crime.
Communities in rural locations often lack the resource and infrastructure required to deal with the consequences of victimisation. Often people are socially isolated and lack dedicated local provision, but rural communities can be tight-knit meaning that the impact of a crime can spread further than in a urban area, heightening the fear of crime.
South Staffordshire has a flourishing tourist industry, but anti-social behaviour can also be reported in tourist locations. In rural areas anti-social behaviour involving vehicles in higher than in urban area (17% in rural compared to 11% in urban) and the number of noise complaints in rural areas is double that of urban area. The police, council and partners face the challenges of responding to rural anti-social behaviour over such a large geographical area.
How can you protect your property if a farm or business:
- Look closely at the perimeter of your property, remove all gates and entrances that you no longer use.
- Plant thorn hedges with deep ditches and bunds.
- Change the layout if necessary to establish a single entrance and exit.
- Invert and cap gate hinges so that gates cannot be lifted off, or use good padlocks with covers so they cannot be cut off. Also, ensure all fixing bolts cannot be removed.
- If a gate is not being used for a lengthy period, place a temporary obstruction in front of it so it cannot be opened or used for parking or a rubbish tip.
- Use locking posts or temporary obstructions to control large openings to yards.
- Cattle grids should be removable and locked out of position when not in use.
- Install sensor controlled ‘dusk to dawn' security lights to alert you to visitors.
- Install an infra-red device at the inner gate which will sound an alarm to alert you to visitors.
- Join a ‘Watch' scheme, obtain signs from the Police and place them on gates.
- Place ' Beat the Bogus Caller ' signs saying “We do not buy from calling sales persons".
- Add to indoor security by installing sensors with audible alarms. Display signs to show you have alarms installed.
- Consider CCTV.
- Store all your property indoors when not in use.
- Keep all doors locked, except when the building or office is in use and there is someone present.
- If your building shell is poor, use secondary secure storage such as a container.
Put yourself in the place of a thief; inspect your buildings and upgrade your storage to reflect the value of the property stored in it. Fit high quality locks. Ensure the fabric of the building is secure. Seek advice from a Police Crime Prevention Officer.
Tractors, Agricultural machinery and Trailers
Nothing should be stored or kept in a visible location, except when in use. When vehicles or plant of any sort are kept outside they should be kept locked and the keys kept in your possession or in a locked key cupboard.
- All property must be uniquely marked, photographed and recorded in an asset register that includes serial, chassis and model numbers.
- Use property marking solutions to uniquely mark all types of property, or Post Code your property in a non visible place and photograph it. Marking solutions: SmartWater - www.smartwater.com ; Selectamark - www.selectamark.co.uk;
- Identidot - www.identidot.com
- If your property is high value fit a tracking device or a data tracking chip. Your insurance company, or a Police Crime Prevention Officer, will advise on its preferred product.
- Register valuable plant; the National Plant and Equipment Register (www.ter-europe.org) runs an international database of owned and stolen equipment. It employs specialist staff who work with law enforcement agencies to identify and recover stolen equipment. You can register five items for free. Tractors and other agricultural machinery, trailers, caravans, quarry equipment and generators are amongst the most stolen items.
Avoid siting storage tanks in isolated areas such as outlying buildings. A mobile bowser could be used instead and removed to a secure place when not in use. For tanks located close to an electricity supply there are additional options - better lighting, motion sensors and alarms - to act as further deterrents.
Caravans are very desirable and thieves will go to extraordinary measures to steal them. There are existing industry standards which you should aspire to. The Caravan Storage Site Owners Association (www.cassoa.co.uk ) has a scheme for accrediting storage facilities. Secured by Design (www.securedbydesign.com ) have secure caravan parks accreditation scheme.
- Rural businesses have many sensitive potential arson locations.
- Hay and straw should be removed from fields as soon as possible after harvesting.
- Hay and straw should be stored:
- separately from other buildings, particularly those housing fuels, agrochemicals and machinery
- in stacks of reasonable size, spaced at least 10 metres apart, separately from livestock housing.
- Petrol, diesel and other fuels should be stored in secure areas and storage tank outlets should be padlocked.
- Fertilisers and pesticides should be kept under lock and key.
- Refuse should be disposed of safely and on a regular basis.
The Health & Safety Executive can provide further advice on the storage and transportation of fertilisers, particularly ammonium nitrate.
- A strong sense of community still exists in rural locations.
- Join a ‘Rural' or ‘Neighbourhood Watch Scheme' to share information.
- Find out who the local Police contact is for your area.
- If you have a suspicious caller at your business, record the vehicle registration number, descriptions of the persons and report this to the Police.