Rural crime in Northern Ireland cost the UK economy £2.7 million (€3 million) in 2015 alone, according to the most recent figures from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).
Between 2014 and 2015, the cost of rural crime in Northern Ireland rose by 13% – the midlands and the east of England had higher costs at £6.6 million (€7.5 million) and £6.9 million (€7.9 million), respectively, however.
In terms of frequency of incidents, the most targeted counties were Lincolnshire, Lancashire and Kent, which each had bills averaging £2 million (€2.3 million) in 2015 –rural crime costs the overall UK economy around £42.5 million (€48.5 million) each year.
The steepest year-on-year climb in costs was witnessed in Gloucestershire, where the bill from rural crime rose 36% to £1.3 million (€1.5 million).
Attitude towards rural crime
The NFU – which represents farmers in England and Wales – warned there was no standard protocol across the police force for dealing with rural crime, and said some forces did not treat the problem “as serious crime”.
NFU Deputy President Minette Batters said: “With significant and varied differences 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.
“Violent crime, along with fly-tipping, hare coursing and theft, are just a few examples of the crimes farm businesses are subject to.
“On my farm, we have suffered with constant hare coursing problems, resulting in gates being left open and stock being continually put at risk.”
|Region||Cost 2014||Cost 2015||Percentage change|
|N Ireland||£2.4m||£2.7m||up 13%|
|N West||£3.9m||£4m||up 3%|
Batters highlighted the prevalence of rural police station closures in recent years, with 1,000 offices being shut down between 2000 and 2012, “directly impacting the level of police surveillance”.
She added: “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 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 are willing to work together to find positive solutions to these challenges.
“Farmers should not be seen as a soft target for criminals.”