Devon and Cornwall Police have teamed up with Devon’s Trading Standards Service and NFU Mutual to tackle would-be criminals who ‘cold-call’ at farms to stake out potential thefts.
The ‘cold-calling’ campaign follows what NFU Mutual said was a rise in agricultural vehicle thefts in 2018, costing the industry £7.4 million.
Rural affairs officer PC Martin Beck said: “A notable cause for fear among rural communities is the threat of itinerant criminals who tour the countryside on the lookout for opportunities to steal, often turning up in white vans or tipper trucks, looking for items to buy such as batteries or metal, or to offer the removal of such waste.
“Such criminals can be very insistent and intimidating, and may be scoping out the layout of the farm trying to spot items worth stealing.
“Fear of crimes like this can exacerbate feelings of isolation among farmers and the health and well-being of rural residents.”
As part of the campaign, farmers have been offered a sign to display at the entrance of their farm warning cold-callers and rogue traders to stay away.
It says: “We won’t buy from you, we won’t sell to you.”
NFU Mutual south west regional manager Ros Hills said reports of suspicious characters visiting farms was causing high levels of anxiety among farmers ‘who know their rural location can make them vulnerable’.
The feeling of being ‘staked out’ was adding to this, she said.
“There is no doubt that when police, farmers and other organisations work together on rural crime initiatives they get results, which is why we would urge farmers to display the cold caller sign and share information about suspicious sightings with their local Farm Watch scheme,” Ms Hills said.
WITH organised gangs continuing to target farms, Tim Price said it was essential to make vehicles and toll sheds secure ‘to avoid being an easy target’. He advised farmers to: