Norfolk bucks national trend for rural crime - but police need help to build ‘full picture’

The specialist rural crime team at Norfolk police has helped the county record a drop in the cost of

The specialist rural crime team at Norfolk police has helped the county record a drop in the cost of rural crime - bucking the upward national trend. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Norfolk police have urged farmers to report all rural crimes – however minor – after it was suggested that a drop in crime-related insurance figures could mask a myriad of small unreported incidents.

According to the latest Rural Crime Report published by insurer NFU Mutual, the cost of rural crime in Norfolk fell by 7.1pc to nearly £1.3m last year, bucking the national trend which saw the UK’s figures rise by 8.8pc to a total of £54.3m.

It also contrasted with rises in neighbouring counties, as Suffolk’s total soared by 29pc to £1.45m last year, while Cambridgeshire saw an 18pc increase to £2.03m.

The report says the sharp national rises were driven by the thefts of high-value tractors, quad bikes and other farm vehicles, while Norfolk has a “serious problem” with the targeted thefts of GPS guidance systems from tractors and combine harvesters – an increasingly important component in precision farming operations, typically worth £8,000 to £14,000.

READ MORE: ‘Sophisticated and organised’ crime gangs are targeting Norfolk farmsBut Norfolk farmer Kit Papworth, who suffered the theft of two GPS screens from a combine harvester on the day before he was due to start his 2020 harvest, said he felt the new statistics did not give a full picture of the damaging impact of rural crime in the Norfolk countryside, as they did not include smaller crimes which did not result in an insurance claim or, in many cases, were not even reported to police.

“I am astonished that the figures show rural crime is down in Norfolk, and I think a lot of that might be down to ‘reporting fatigue’ for fairly minor crimes where there is no action to be taken,” he said.

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“The smaller stuff like fly-tipping and minor thefts like power tools – these might not become insurance claims but there are people out there all the time nicking stuff from farms.

“We have seen a massive jump in fly-tipping in the last month with people coming out into the countryside [after lockdown] and I would be very surprised if we don’t see more rural crimes and more thefts from farms in the coming months.”

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PC Jonathan Chandler from Norfolk Police’s rural crime team said it was vital for all crimes to be reported to police to help them understand where to prioritise their resources.

“We actively encourage farmers to report every crime because we need the full picture,” he said. “We appreciate that there is a lot that does not always get reported to the relevant organisations, but we need people to do that so we can build up that picture. We can utilise our resources to target these problems, but if we are not aware of them then we cannot target these areas.

“Everything needs to be kept in perspective as well. You cannot just assume that everything is going to be rosy because of a downward trend reported in Norfolk this year. I think the overall trend has been downward, but a lot of that is down to the fact that we are doing a lot of hard work to target rural crime.”

PC Chandler said Norfolk Police’s rural team works closely with farmers and farmwatch groups to gather intelligence about thefts and suspicious activity. Information is shared among farmers across social media platforms to provide quick alerts when crimes take place.

He said other successes include the recovery of several loaders after an operation was mounted to break up the export supply chain for vehicles stolen during a spate of telehandler thefts around the Norfolk and Lincolnshire border in the spring.

Patrick Verrell, senior NFU Mutual agent in Norfolk, said: “While we welcome the news that Norfolk didn’t see the sharp increases of the rest of the UK, rural crime continues to have a devastating impact on our farmers and rural communities.

“There’s no doubt that organised criminal gangs are targeting our countryside and these figures would be much higher if it weren’t for the specialist rural crime team at Norfolk police, and improved farm security measures such as trackers for tractors and quads.”

• Police are encouraging farms and countryside businesses to report any rural crimes via the Norfolk Constabulary website, or call 999 if there is a crime in progress.

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