Agricultural theft officially on the rise again
According to data released yesterday from insurer NFU Mutual – who insure three quarters of the UK’s farmers – the cost of crime to the UK’s rural economy reached £44.5m in 2013.
This is more than a 5% increase on 2012, a clear change back from the decline of the previous year, to the steady increase of the four years previous to that. 2013 had bucked a four-year-trend of rising ‘agri-crime’; however, due to crimes like livestock rustling – of which 2013 was also the worst year on record – statistics showed a increase again.
Two other rural crimes that are on the increase are tractor and agricultural chemical theft. These days, a single tractor can be worth up to £80,000, but older tractors that have less-than-adequate security features are targeted too and many shipped to eastern Europe. Agricultural chemicals, such as pesticide and fertiliser, are surprisingly expensive; close to £20,000 worth of chemicals were stolen in one raid alone.
Beating the agricultural criminals
CIA recommend starting with low-tech, common-sense measures known as target hardening, “Basically, the phrase ‘target hardening’ means making theft more difficult for the would-be thieves by simply improving gates, locks, chains, fencing, posts, et cetera; in the hope the villains are deterred to go elsewhere”, says Colin Whittaker, one of CIA’s security system designers.
Colin goes on to suggest more elaborate strategies, “We’ve a number of solutions that we can implement to protect livestock, like thermal imaging camera video surveillance systems – with software that can reliably recognise human from animal bodies, even at more than a mile away; battery-powered portable CCTV with built-in movement sensors monitored by an RVRC [remote video response centre] via cellular network; and sophisticated wireless infra-red beam fence systems more commonly used for military applications, to name but a few.
“More common means can be used for protecting tractors and pesticides, like conventional CCTV systems and intruder alarm systems; as they are generally in and around buildings. However, these need specialist expertise when specifying, and intricate customisation when installing, to work effectively in their specific environment or circumstances.
Colin, who started as an apprentice engineer over thirty years ago, adds “It’s no good installing a monitored system that is going to false alarm; as the police withdraw attendance after three false alarms in any rolling 12 month period.
“External areas are subject to wild animals like deer, foxes, cats and the weather, and although barns may be more sheltered from the elements, they are still hostile environments, in as far as, they are open to rodents, birds, insects and considerable drafts. We’ve not only got the expertise but also our procurement and testing is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.”
“Cheaper systems that send text alerts sound great on paper, but in reality, they can send so many alerts owners quickly become de-sensitised to them and stop checking them properly, even when they’re not busy or asleep. This is where the visual confirmation that you get from RVRC monitoring comes into it’s own.
Any farmer who would like advice on what measures are available can call and speak to us on 02392 265111 (choose option 3), or if you’d prefer, fill in this form and we’ll call you within office hours to arrange a free security survey.
Which county’s farms are most at risk?
None of the counties we service: Berkshire, Dorset, East Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, West Sussex or Wiltshire, make the NFU Mutual’s ‘Top 10 UK counties by estimated cost of rural crime’ list. However, Kent is number 4 on the list which borders East Sussex and Surrey, a county we’re very active in; particularly Guildford and surrounding towns Farnham, Godalming, Haslemere and Woking.
Somerset, which borders Dorset and Wiltshire, also made it onto the list and Dorset is another area we are very active in, especially the Bournemouth, East Dorset, Christchurch and Poole Dorset districts.
According to the Mid Devon Gazette, Devon that also borders Dorset is up 35 per cent for 2013. They report the cost of rural crime in Devon rose to £720,000 for the previous 12 months from £620,000 over the 12 months before that so Dorset has rising crime on two fronts.
We had a spate of agricultural thefts in the Romsey area that we reported on back in November (read news story here).