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Rural and Farming Security Challenges

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In the latest Rural Crime Report for 2019 from NFU Mutual the chairman, Richard Percy, acknowledges that in his lifetime rural theft has changed from opportunist thieves, stealing a few tools to organised criminal gangs targeting expensive machinery and even flocks of sheep!

Rising Cost of Rural Crime

For two consecutive years the impact and cost of rural crime has increased dramatically. Between 2017 and 2018 the cost increased by 12% to £49.9m and over the past two years the cost has increased by a massive £10m. The total cost of rural crime in the UK is now at its highest level since 2013.

Farm vehicles continue to be favourite targets for thieves but tools, quad bikes, ATVs and machinery are also highly vulnerable. The cost of agricultural vehicle theft increased from £5.9m in 2017 to £7.4m in 2018 and the cost of Quad/ATV theft increased from £2.3m to £2.6m over the same time period.

One notable trend has been the increase in physical attacks against ATMs with some criminal gangs using stolen plant or agricultural machinery. The desired vehicles are being taken from local farms close to the target ATM machines and then used to cause serious, often irreparable damage to the building housing the attacked machine.

Although rural crime tends to be quantified in terms of financial cost the impact on people’s lives can be very significant. The fear of crime leads to people becoming anxious and afraid to leave their countryside homes and farms unattended. A recent survey conducted by Farmers Weekly reported that 78% of survey respondents said they were concerned about becoming a victim of rural crime and 32% reported that they are “very concerned”. This awful situation can exacerbate isolation and loneliness that’s already experienced by many people living and working in rural, farming communities.

uk rural police force tractor

While the increasing levels of rural crime over recent years is worrying there is plenty of evidence demonstrating how well organised rural security measures can effectively mitigate risk and beat countryside criminals.

Farmyard Security

Limited police resources are the biggest concern for people living in countryside communities. Without adequate support from the police it’s no surprise that farmers and people who live in the countryside are taking matters into their own hands to protect their valuable assets.

For example, farmers are increasingly using what many consider to be medieval security measures to keep criminals off their properties including:

  • Providing single entry points.
  • Raising the height of farmyard fencing.
  • Reinforcing gates.
  • Digging ditches and raising earth banks.

Blocking farm entrances reduces vulnerability but can also introduce inconvenience and a cost impact as the blockages take time to be removed when required during day-to-day farm operations.

Using a multi-layered approach to security is widely recommended as an effective deterrent and a method to mitigate the risk of becoming a victim of crime.

  • Pay close attention to all areas of vulnerability around the perimeter of the farm or rural, countryside property.
  • Ensure that all farm buildings, barns and sheds are secure within the property.
  • Make certain that all valuables stored in those buildings are thoroughly secured.

old barn door padlock

A simple, low-cost but highly effective technique is to upgrade all locks and chains used to secure gates, doors, farm buildings and valuable assets. Since rural criminals are typically using battery powered angle-grinders to quickly cut through metal security devices it’s important to make this as difficult as possible by using the highest quality locks, chains and anchors as possible.

Many farms are now investing in CCTV systems. Farms can be multi-million pound operations with significant investment in agricultural plant and machinery so the impact of rural crime on commercial activity can be enormous. It therefore makes sense to invest in a high quality CCTV system that operates both day and night, has a long optical range and is capable of providing detailed imagery to enable the identification of intruders and their vehicles.

Vehicle Security

Since a lot of rural crime targets vehicles, especially quad bikes and ATVs, it’s worth focusing on implementing some specific security precautions. Here are some practical tips and recommendations which will help prevent vehicle theft or damage in the countryside.

farm atv - all terrain vehicle

  1. Secure all vehicles in lockable garages or buildings when not in use.
  2. Install security lighting around the perimeter, at entrances and around garages and buildings.
  3. Always lock vehicles when not in use and keep keys safely hidden away.
  4. Keep a photographic record of all farm vehicles showing vehicle registration plates.
  5. Secure quad bikes and ATVs using Sold Secure Gold high security chains and padlocks.
  6. Attach security chains to immovable, high security ground anchors.
  7. Never leave keys in an ATV, even if left unattended for a brief period.
  8. Mark all machinery using DNA marking or Smartwater
  9. Sign up to the Cesar equipment registration scheme and deploy markings.
  10. Etch the Vehicle Identification Number onto windows to make vehicles less appealing to criminals.
  11. Install immobilisers and trackers.
  12. Ensure that any trailers or horseboxes that are stored outside are securely locked to an immovable anchor point.
  13. Fit wheel locks when trailers or horseboxes are not in use.
  14. Paint your postcode on the roof of the horsebox or trailer to enable police helicopters to recognise it from above.

tractors are favoured by criminals

Countryside Home Security

Countryside crime is not restricted to farms and agricultural operations, although these are often the most attractive criminal targets. The fact that many countryside homes are isolated makes them highly vulnerable to attack. Thieves can take their time when assessing potential points of entry, optimal times of day and the locations of valuables. In rural settings there is far less risk that they will be spotted climbing over a fence or in through a window.

isolated country house

So what can country home-owners do to protect themselves, their families and their valuables?

  1. Be aware of the multi-layered, concentric rings of security and ensure that vulnerabilities at each layer are minimal.
  2. Make certain that all fencing, walls, hedges and gates are well maintained and secure.
  3. Display warning signs to advise would-be intruders of your security measures.
  4. Ensure that all buildings including garages, sheds, barns and out-houses are secured.
  5. Make certain that any valuables such as motorbikes, trailers, boats or caravans are securely attached to immovable anchor points using high security chains and locks.
  6. Store any high value items such as jewellery or shotguns in locked cabinets inside locked rooms which are inside secure buildings.
  7. Always store your house, buildings and vehicle keys out of sight.
  8. Use gravel in driveways as this can provide an audible warning when someone is approaching.
  9. Install motion-triggered security lighting around the perimeter, around buildings and along the driveway.
  10. Install a CCTV system to monitor the property and record any triggering activity.
  11. Consider using a guard dog or geese to provide an early warning.
  12. Help your neighbours and work with your community to raise awareness of security needs.
  13. Always report all crimes to the police as under-reporting results in lower-prioritisation from the police force.

While crime in the countryside is on the increase becoming a victim is not inevitable. By paying close attention to vulnerabilities and taking appropriate and considered precautions you can protect your property and your valuables from theft and damage.

If you have any questions or concerns about rural crime and security in the countryside we are here to help. Give us a call on 01273 475500 and we’ll give you some free, expert advice.

This message was added on Thursday 24th October 2019

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