Farming leaders have urged Norfolk's newly-elected police and crime commissioner (PCC) to make tackling rural crime one of her top priorities.

Sarah Taylor became Labour's first Norfolk PCC after beating Conservative Giles Orpen-Smellie in the election earlier this month.

And calls are already being made for the new commissioner to prioritise strategies to combat rural crime which has "far-reaching consequences, impacting farmers both financially and emotionally". 

Farm machinery theft, fly-tipping, dog attacks on livestock and hare coursing continue to plague agricultural communities - and cost the UK £49.5m in 2022, according to insurer NFU Mutual’s rural crime report.

So the National Farmers' Union (NFU) is calling on its members to sign an open letter to all newly- elected commissioners, outlining the sector's recommendations on rural crime.

They include recruiting a dedicated rural crime specialist, engaging regularly with the farming community and delivering "effective response and investigation of crimes impacting farm businesses".

Other industry demands include working with farm businesses on effective crime prevention strategies, developing a strategy to tackle organised crime groups in operating in rural areas, and providing greater rural crime training for officers and control centres.

Eastern Daily Press: Tim Papworth is chairman of the Norfolk branch of the National Farmers' Union (NFU)Tim Papworth is chairman of the Norfolk branch of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) (Image: Adam Fradgley)

NFU Norfolk chairman Tim Papworth said: “Rural crime continues to be a major issue for many farmers and members of the public across Norfolk.

“Farmers have been victims of a range of crimes, including theft of valuable machinery and expensive GPS equipment, industrial-scale fly-tipping, dog attacks on livestock and hare coursing.

“Organised criminal gangs have been carrying out such crimes in recent months.

“It has a huge financial impact on farmers, impacts our ability to do our work, producing food for the nation and makes people feel unsafe in their own homes and workplaces.

“We need rural crime to be a top priority and for the authorities to continue to work with our members to deliver positive long-term and short-term results."