Rural crime sparks '˜vicious cycle' of anger and frustration

Farmers south of the Border are angry about levels of rural crime. Picture: Chris Bacon/PAFarmers south of the Border are angry about levels of rural crime. Picture: Chris Bacon/PA
Farmers south of the Border are angry about levels of rural crime. Picture: Chris Bacon/PA

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While figures released earlier this week showed that machinery thefts had fallen by a third in Scotland as a result of a major initiative between the police and the farming industry, English farmers were claiming that a 'vicious cycle' of poor performance and expectations had led to rural confidence collapsing there.

Lobbying for a similar recognition of rural crime south of the Border, the English NFU said that low expectations were leading to chronic under-reporting, anger, frustration and worry of crime in the countryside.

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They said that the National Rural Crime Network had recorded significantly lower levels of confidence in the police in the countryside – a claim backed up by the fact that the cost of rural crime had risen to more than £42.5 million, according to rural insurer NFU Mutual.

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However, figures released this week showed that tractor and quad thefts in Scotland had fallen considerably in the two years since NFU Mutual, Police Scotland and other partners joined forces to tackle the issue across Scotland.

The Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (Sparc) initiative was set up in June 2015 with £75,000 sponsorship from NFU Mutual. The funding was aimed at helping Police Scotland train officers in the investigation and prevention of a range of rural crimes, and providing support for vehicle and livestock theft operations and to step up activity to prevent livestock worrying by dogs.

The initiative has seen Police Scotland and NFU Mutual working closely with a range of rural organisations in Scotland, including NFU Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Scottish Government.

“The results show the positive impact of the work that has been carried out by Sparc and the 13 local partnership groups aligned to each of Police Scotland’s local policing divisions,” said Chief Superintendent Gavin Robertson, chair of Sparc.

“This structure ensures a consistent approach while allowing issues to be identified and addressed by those who understand best the specific needs and concerns of their own rural communities.”

He said the force was far from complacent, and had set ambitious work plans for the coming year.