The escalating cost of rural crime must be a major concern to farmers across the country, but perhaps not a surprise.
Whether it is the challenge faced by those battling seemingly industrial levels of fly-tipping, or those in some areas toiling against organised hare coursing or continued trespass, it has been clear that while crime figures may have dropped in previous years, the problem had not gone away.
And the impact rural crime can have on individual farmers is significant. From those left feeling frustrated and angry at sporadic thefts of machinery, others have been the victims of multiple incidents which have seen them and their farms targeted.
As the report from NFU Mutual points out, there can be an increasing psychological toll placed on farmers who are the victims of crime, with the process often heightening feelings of rural isolation and creeping fear as to whether it will happen again.
But there have also been reasons for hope, with many farming and rural communities coming together to battle the problem with ’farm watch’ initiatives, or others which have harnessed the power of mobile phones and other communication devices to share information about suspicious incidents in their areas.
What is required in the longer term battle against criminals targeting rural areas is for joined up thinking between law enforcement agencies and wider governmental policies. Take fly tipping, for example. With council budgets slashed and waste disposal sites closed or reduced in capacity, this has forced organised crime into the game and the detritus out on to farmers’ fields.
With a more coherent approach this could have been anticipated, yet it took too long for fines to be increased for the perpetrators of this blight on the countryside, with many farmers still feeling that it is them who are they left to shoulder the clean-up costs.
While the battle against rural crime will inevitably continue, it of the upmost urgency that as governments’ budgets are squeezed as they pay back the Covid-19 bill, rural policing budgets are not slashed and our communities are not left to fend for themselves.