Criminals are believed to have cost rural areas more than £800m in 2014, according to a new survey.
The figures revealed by the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) poll of 17,000 people living and working in rural areas throughout England and Wales dwarf previous estimates.
The survey indicated farmers and young families were the most frequent victims of crime, with the average cost of those crimes to a household being more than £2,500 and more than £4,000 to a business.
The study highlighted a ‘vicious circle of low expectations, leading to chronic under-reporting, anger, frustration and worry’.
The report added: “The result is increasing fear of crime and significantly lower satisfaction levels in the police than the national average.”
It also found fear of crime was increasing, with 39 per cent of rural people ‘very’ or ‘fairly worried’ about becoming a victim of crime, compared to 19 per cent nationally.
As previously reported by Farmers Guardian, crime is severely under reported in rural areas due to a lack of confidence in police.
The NRCN survey found more than one in four (27 per cent) did not report the last crime they were a victim of.
It means Home Office figures of 294,000 rural crimes between April 2014 and May 2015 could be incorrect and the actual number of crimes could be as high as 403,000.
Julia Mulligan, chairman of the NRCN and Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said the findings should come as a wake-up call to police forces.
She said: “Our report comes at a critical time when the structure and funding for policing are being fundamentally reassessed. Some of the findings in this report make uncomfortable reading but it is vitally important for the reality of rural crime to be fully acknowledged and acted upon. Its actual scale is clearly much greater than we had previously known; £800m is a big number.
“The low satisfaction rates also need to be a wake-up call for police forces in rural areas and everything should be done to harness the opportunities presented. Good, accessible local policing is central to this and I believe police forces which significantly shrink their local teams in rural areas do so at their peril.”
The NCRN said it would make seven recommendations including fair funding for rural areas; more joined up working with partners and communities, building on rural resilience; embedding best practice; developing new policies and ways of working; and ensuring a more targeted approach within rural communities.
The results will be being presented at and discussed with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Rural Service today (September 15).
Key findings from the survey: