A new NFU report has revealed serious failings in the way police are treating rural crime, despite it costing farmers more than £40 million a year.
More than 1,000 rural police stations closed between 2000 and 2012 as farmers and their families became victims of arson, vandalism and burglary. Many others reported experiencing fear, intimidation and threats of violence.
Fly-tipping, vehicle theft and hare coursing were also causing problems, but crimes were not being reported because of low levels of satisfaction with the police and the 101 system for reporting crime.
The new report found there was no standard protocol across police forces for combatting rural crime, with some not treating it as serious crime – meaning criminals have begun to travel long distances to target farm businesses.
NFU deputy president Minette Batters said: “With significant and varied difference across police forces, safety in rural areas has become a postcode lottery.
“Farmers are reporting dramatic increases in incidents and are feeling more vulnerable as these actions continue. On my farm, we have suffered with constant hare coursing problems, resulting in gates being left open and stock continually being put at risk.
“The NFU is asking Government and the Home Office to ensure increased and fairer funding for rural policing.
“There are many very good examples of police forces taking action and implementing good practice to deal with rural crime, with great success.
“But we believe more joined-up thinking is needed from police forces, together with local authorities, and we need Government to address these issues.
“The NFU would like Government to take the lead to ensure all constabularies adopt strategies of accurate recording and target setting and we are willing to work together to find positive solutions to these challenges.
“Farmers should not be seen as a soft target for criminals.”