The Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) – the leading trade association for the locksmithing profession - is urging agricultural workers and landowners to take a closer look at what measures they implement to keep their equipment and property safe. Dr Steffan George, development director of the MLA, rounds up some of the best ways farmers can deter unwelcome visitors from their land. . .
Every year rural crime costs millions of pounds and causes untold anxiety across the UK.
Rural areas present the greatest opportunity for thieves because of isolated houses and buildings, less lighting – especially during autumn and winter – fewer witnesses and the ease of being able to watch the owner’s movements.
Latest figures show rural theft cost an estimated £37.8m in the UK during 2014. Preventing crime in rural communities is a big issue at this time of year when farms become a popular target for criminals due to the long and dark nights, and farmers need to look at their premises and equipment with the eye of a thief.
The MLA advises farmers and rural landowners to consult an MLA-approved locksmith, who will be able to carry out a security assessment on property and recommend suitable locks and fittings, as well as providing input from a safety point of view.
Don’t be tempted to economise by buying cheap locks. It is worth investing in high quality locks, chains and padlocks, making sure that you use products that have been approved by an independent product testing house – such as Sold Secure – to provide peace of mind (visit www.soldsecure.com to check for their lists of approved products).
It is also important not to specify and fit locks or undertake repairs as fitting the wrong products can undermine security and affect insurance premiums and cover should the worst happen.
Ill-secured and poorly maintained sheds and outbuildings are an easy target, as they present thieves with a relatively low risk and high gain opportunity.
Maintenance is vital as rusted locks, chains, hasps and staples, cracked panes of glass and rotted frames and sills are all features that opportunistic thieves look out for, so it is essential to perform regular and thorough maintenance checks.
Where appropriate use good quality padlocks with heavy duty hasp and staple on barn and outbuilding doors. It is ideal if the locks are fitted directly to the door, with two equally spaced locks from top to bottom. Controlling access to farmyards is important and this can be achieved through the use of quality chains and padlocks being used to lock all gates.
Farm machinery and plant is a hot topic at the moment following a spate of thefts and more tractors than cars are stolen these days. Theft of farm machinery tends to be organised and a tractor could be in a shipping container on a boat before the owner even realises it has gone. Farmers in the past have thought that they were safe in the country but organised gangs target remote locations as easier pickings.
Every year tractors worth millions of pounds are stolen from British farms. Police say many are stolen to order and shipped abroad sometimes ending up as far away as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tracking devices have proved popular but are of little use when your property is in another country so instead of trying to find your tractor after it has been stolen, try to stop it being stolen in the first place by locking down gates and outbuildings using locks, chains, bollards, wheel clamps, ground anchors and safes for locking keys away.
Other ways of improving security include alarms fitted to outbuildings, outdoor security lighting – such as dusk till dawn and motion sensor lighting. CCTV systems and intruder alert systems are other important considerations as deterrence by surveillance is an increasingly popular measure, along with property marking/tagging systems.