New strategies aim to tackle wildlife and rural crime

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New strategies have been launched aimed at tackling wildlife and rural crime across the UK.

Over the past 14 months the Wildlife Crime Policing Strategy and the Rural Affairs Strategy have been developed through consultation with police and their partners.

The strategies by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) are a first for the UK.

PSNI Service lead for Rural and Wildlife Crime, Supt. Brian Kee, said the launch of the strategies marked a significant step forward to safeguarding our wildlife and rural environment.

He added: “These strategies have the support of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), the Home Office and the College of Policing.

“The PSNI is committed to working with partner agencies to combat rural and wildlife crime in all its forms.”

UFU legislation policy committee chair, James O’Brien said rural crime continues to be a serious issue for farmers and the rural community.

He added: “In 2017, it cost the rural economy a staggering £2.6 million. However, the financial impact is only one side of the story. The resulting stress and strain on farming families targeted by criminals has a lasting effect and can leave victims feeling isolated and vulnerable in their own homes. We want to see rural crime and its consequences treated with sufficient seriousness. The NPCC’s new strategies are welcome but farmers and their families also want to see meaningful action to tackle this issue.”

Food and farming is the largest industry in the UK and is worth over £108bn a year, making it a major target for criminals.

The Rural Affairs Strategy reveals that the types of rural crimes seen across the UK vary from all types of farm crime to fly tipping. Police forces also face regional and local variations in rural crime.

The Strategy continues: “According to the NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2017, ‘The rise in rural crime has come about due to two main factors. Social and economic change has seen the number of farms fall and close-knit communities collapse. Modern transport links now enable thieves to steal farm machinery and move it into mainland Europe in a matter of hours’.”

The report highlights some emerging trends as:

• Being watched or ‘staked out’ is the biggest concern for people living in the countryside

• Ongoing livestock theft is raising concerns that stock is being

stolen for slaughter and processing outside regulated abattoirs before illegally entering the food chain

• Thieves are cloning the identities of large, expensive tractors to make them easier to sell and harder to detect

• Small and older tractors are being targeted by organised gangs for export to developing countries

• Since Land Rover ended production of its Defender, the iconic farm vehicle has become an even bigger target for thieves

The extent of the cost of rural crime is outlined in the 2017 NFU Mutual Rural Crime report which identifies the insurance claim cost in 2016 to be £39.2m, £5.4m of this cost is identified as Agricultural Vehicle Theft alone. Crimes such as livestock theft also have a significant cost of £2.2m in the same year.

The 2015 National Rural Crime Survey was answered by 17000 people living and working in rural communities. It suggested the cost of rural crime to be significantly higher than previously identified, stating that the true cost of rural crime could exceed £800m. The key findings from this survey described the financial impact of crime on the rural economy equates to £200 for every household in the countryside and an average cost to rural households, who are victims of crime, of £2500 and £4100 for rural businesses. It also describes the fear of crime as increasing and a low satisfaction rate of police performance in rural areas.

Although there are many definitions, wildlife crime can be defined as: any action which contravenes current legislation governing the protection of wild animals and plants.