John Sones continues his look at trends in rural crime
Last month we looked at hare coursing, fly-tipping and sheep ‘worrying’ and in this focus on rural crime, I will be looking at damage to and theft of property, stock and pets, what this involves, how serious it can be and how it might affect you. I will also suggest some measures that you can take to reduce the risks.
Increase in dog theft
One crime that can really have a long term effect is the theft of a working or pet dog. This is an increasingly worrying trend. On the one hand a lot of time and often money will have been invested in training a working do which makes them a valuable commodity to steal and sell on. On the other hand they will also be a loved member of the family as are other pet dogs and their loss will be very strongly felt including worrying about their welfare.
There is evidence that working dogs in particular are watched closely and tracked possibly by placing a tracker on the vehicle used to transport them so that they can be stolen at an opportune time. For example one owner was in a very rural area and only a short distance from his vehicle when his two dogs were taken which seems more than a coincidence.
Specific advice concerning dogs includes do not leave them unattended at any time and varying when and where you go when you are out and about. Anyone showing a very close interest in your dog and asking a lot of questions i.e. more than a casual meeting with another dog lover may be looking for details to plan its theft. They will also want to know how you control your dog because once stolen they will need to demonstrate its abilities to a prospective purchaser. Also beware of being distracted. Just as a team of thieves will have one person get your attention usually by an ‘innocent question such as asking for directions while another steals your purse, credit car or phone, the same ‘distraction’ tactic can be used to steal your dog.
Step up security
Other advice is to have good home security including strong locks, good external lighting especially if you have an outside kennel and consider CCTV either real or dummy.
Other thefts in rural areas include items like quad bikes and tractors. Quad bikes should ideally be stored within a building out of sight with the keys removed. Fit wheel clamps or chain it to something secure and consider an alarm. Mark or customise it so that it is easily identifiable and consider a tracking device and immobiliser for high value items. If possible park a larger vehicle across the entrance.
Never leave a tractor in a field as the battery will be vulnerable and the tractor could be stolen or damaged. For vehicles, CESAR is a recognised national marking scheme and the vehicle will have its own ‘fingerprint’ which is impossible for thieves to remove. Also keep a photograph and record of serial numbers.
Electric Fence Batteries
One of our smallholding club members has suffered repeated thefts of electric
Other areas to consider
Look around your holding for vulnerable areas. Fit good lighting to outbuildings, yards and houses to discourage criminals.
Outbuilding and Sheds
Store valuable equipment in a secure building behind a strong locked door using locks that comply with British Standards, good quality locking bars and high security padlocks. Use motion sensors or infrared surveillance to detect movement.
Check livestock in fields regularly and keep fences, hedges and perimeters in good repair. Always mark your stock using a recommended method such as livestock crayons or tattoo ink.
Beware of any unusual callers to the smallholding
Check their identity and if in doubt note their description and any vehicle they are using. If they have done anything at all suspicious, call the police. Also be alert to any unusual drone activity particularly if it very close to your holding. They have their rural uses such as filming wildlife and to see how habitat restoration projects are progressing as well as carrying out field surveys but could be used to ‘survey’ an area for a future crime. Users could also break the law if breeding wild birds, dolphins and seals are harassed or disturbed by their use.
Other rural crime includes theft of lead from churches and arson of stacks and buildings. In both cases be alert for any unusual activity especially if the areas is isolated and at an odd time. At night it may be the sighting of headlights close by which are very suspicious.
Guinea fowl and geese are good as early warning for intruders as they are very noisy when they are woken. As well as the usual methods, farmers and landowners can now report incidences of rural crime and suspicious activity to a bespoke hotline – 0800 783 0137. The NFU has partnered with the charity Crime-stoppers to launch the Rural Crime Reporting Line, a service through which you can anonymously give information about four rural crimes: large-scale industrial fly-tipping, hare coursing, livestock theft and machinery theft.
Unfortunately rural crime is on the increase and a Rural Crime Report for 2018 by the NFU Mutual says brazen criminals are responsible for the highest level of rural crime for four years. Overall in 2017, it is estimated that rural crime cost £44.5 million an increase of 13.4% on the previous year so by taking some preventative measures you are not only lessening your chance of being a victim but also helping with an insurance claim should that become necessary. Also do not underestimate the value of joining a ‘rural watch’ if your area has one and keeping an eye out for your neighbours as well as for yourself.
Security Marking websites: