At this week’s National Rural Crime Seminar in Kettering, Matthew Scott, chief claims manager at NFU Mutual, signed an agreement with National Police Chiefs’ Council rural crime lead Chief Constable Simon Prince to roll out the scheme.
NFU Mutual estimated rustling was costing more than £6 million a year.
“Livestock theft can leave breeding programmes in tatters and production disrupted for years, not to mention the welfare of the animals,” Mr Scott told the seminar.
Also known as the Lancashire Livestock Initiative, Ewe Hostels is the brainchild of Lancashire farmer John Taylor. It involves the NFU, NFU Mutual, Lancashire police, auction markets, farmers and other organisations in identifying livestock when there are suspicions and caring for them if they are found to be stolen.
Police have been trained in identification, handling, paperwork and fitting evidence tags to animals. If the animals need to be retained, nearby auction markets and farmers are selected from a database of organisations which have offered to provide care and accommodation.
It has already resulted in two prosecutions with custodial sentences and a ’huge reduction’ in livestock thefts.
“This is an example of innovative thinking and excellent collaborative working within the whole community,” Mr Scott said.
“Since 2010 livestock theft has re-emerged to plague farmers after a long period of dormancy. The scale of the crime has changed. We’re now seeing hundreds of sheep being stolen from farms.
“In the past, farmers have had few effective means to deter and bring determined livestock thieves to justice and police haven’t had the facilities to identify or handle livestock when they are recovered. There’s now the opportunity for this initiative to be utilised by other UK police forces that need support to tackle this crime."
He added strong intelligence links across police forces were essential in bringing criminals operating across the UK to justice, along with swift reporting and attendance and comprehensive forensics.
“People living in the country know more than most what’s happening in their surroundings,” he said.
“We can use this information to harness the power of crime fighting groups.
“I ask policy makers to consider the actions that will most effectively create partnerships with the local population and ensure the capture and circulation of so much good intelligence.”
Key rural crime statistics
Source: NFU Mutual