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CONCERN OVER RURAL CRIME GROWS

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Figures from the NFU Mutual's Countryside Survey reveal a rising crime wave in the countryside which reflects the ...
Figures from the NFU Mutual's Countryside Survey reveal a rising crime wave in the countryside which reflects the situation in Wales with a staggering 41% of respondents victims of theft or vandalism in the past three years, leaving rural communities quaking as thieves turn their attentions to the countryside.

The telephone survey conducted by NFU Mutual last month shows that the fear of rural crime is perceived to be a very real threat (97%), with half of those who live and work in the countryside extremely worried about being burgled this last year.

The most common rural crime is burglary (11%), followed by thefts from

farms (8%). Another soft target for thieves in the countryside are cars, caravans and tractors (7%) which are often parked out of sight from the house. Vandalism has also increased, with reports of cars left badly damaged that thieves have been unable to steal.

NFU Mutual's Underwriting manager, Sid Gibson says:

'This is having a terrible effect on many people. One in four said that the constant threat of crime has adversely affected their families health and lifestyle. Some people are now afraid to leave their houses and farms empty, if only to pop down to the local shop. Some say they are constantly worrying about being burgled and cannot sleep at night.'

Top of the list of concerns are the level of policing. Over 90% of

respondents thought rural policing could be improved and thought that more bobbies on the beat would help prevent the rash of rural crime.

'Increasingly, country dwellers are having to become more streetwise like their urban cousins and have taken measures to improve their security arrangements,' explains Mr Gibson.

The survey of 300 NFU Countryside members took place in July and was

carried out by independent research consultants Clive Moon Associates.

Basic security precautions recommended by NFU Mutual:

Vehicles

* Remove keys and secure cars, tractors, and other vehicles when they are left unattended

* Lock up tools and equipment out of sight

* Use security lighting in yards and drives

* Have the registration number etched on vehicle windows

Farms and businesses

* Record machinery serial numbers

* Mark livestock clearly and count them regularly

* Ensure computers are kept in well-secured buildings

Homes

* Consider installing a NACOSS approved burglar alarm

* Fit and use mortice deadlocks on doors - particularly final exits

* Fit and use window locks on all ground floor windows - and accessible first floor windows

Rise in home and business thefts marks shift in rural crime trends

NFU Mutual, the UK's leading rural insurer, reported a rise in burglaries from rural homes and businesses during 1999 as criminals shifted their attention away from farms.

The cost of theft from rural homes and businesses rose by six per cent in 1999. In contrast, the cost of equipment and vehicles stolen from farms fell by just under 12 per cent from£93m in 1998 to£82m in 1999.

Across the UK, the cost of rural crime showed falls in all regions except Northern Ireland, the North West and the South West, where it continued to rise.

Speaking at its annual rural crime press conference at the Royal Show at Stoneleigh on July 2, NFU Mutual underwriting manager, Sid

Gibson, said it appeared that the farm income crisis had reduced the

saleability of stolen farm equipment and livestock prompting thieves to turn their attention to richer pickings in rural homes and businesses. He estimated that theft from homes and businesses in the countryside cost in the region of£168m in 1999.

'While there has been a welcome fall in thefts of farm equipment like chain saws, power drills and livestock, we're seeing alarming rises in theft from both homes and country businesses' he said.

'In past times one of the joys of living in the countryside was the low level of crime - but sadly it's not safe to leave doors unlocked today.

We're advising everyone who lives in the countryside to take basic security precautions such as locking doors - even when they are out

in the garden - and keeping gardening power tools secured out of sight.'

He added that thieves were also targeting garden ornaments and statues.

Although theft of farm equipment and stock fell, tractor thefts bucked this trend, with costs increasing by an alarming 50 per cent as organised gangs stepped up activities stealing large new tractors for export under false identities.

'These statistics should be viewed against country people's unprecedented concerns about the high level of rural crime, ' he said.

'Our network of 600 agents reports that crime is now one of the top

concerns of the thousands of farmers, county business owners and rural

dwellers they meet every week.

'It certainly appears that the fear of crime combined with the effects of the farm income crisis and other problems affecting life in the countryside is leading to serious depression in many people and even a siege mentality in a minority.

'Although we have seen a fall in the cost of thefts from farms, the rise in domestic theft does lend weight to the theory that improved security in urban areas combined with the country's extensive motorway network is leading would-be thieves to believe there are easy pickings to be had in rural areas.'

Pamela Oldfield, head of NFU Mutual's Risk Management Services - which

provides detailed advice to businesses on security, health and safety, and environment protection - said that there was a range of measures that country people could take to deter thieves.

'Fitting and using good quality door and window locks will deter many

opportunist thieves, while alarms, security lights and CCTV will deter all but the most determined thieves,' she said.

'In addition the fast growing use of marking and registering services such as the Theft Equipment Register for machinery, the Art Loss Register for antiques and works of art, and the horse freeze-marking service Farmkey, are all proving effective both in deterring thieves and aiding detection of crimes.

'Above all, don't let fear of crime get you down' she urged. 'Despite these rises, the chance of being burgled in the countryside is still far lower than in most urban areas.'

Note

* A regional breakdown of the NFU Mutual's farm theft cost

estimates is attached, together with basic security advice for country people.

NFU Mutual UK and Regional

farm theft cost estimates

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

Location Estimated

Cost

£m

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

Percentage

Change

>------------

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

1996 1997 1998 1999

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

1998-1999

>------------

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

UK Overall 101.5 93.1 93.1 82.1

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

-11.8%

>------------

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

Anglia 16.1 13.4 15.6

11.3

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

-27.5%

>------------

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

West 7.2 7.1 7.4

Midlands 6.7

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

-9.5%

>------------

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

East 9.7 8.9 9.9

Midlands 9.3

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

-6%

>------------

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

Northern 1.5 1.5 1.6

Ireland 2.1

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

+40%

>------------

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

North East 20 15.6 18.3

14.9

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

-18.6%

>------------

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

North West 11.7 11.4 8.9

9.9

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

+11.2%

>------------

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

Scotland 1.7 1.85 2.6

1.5

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

-40.%

>------------

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

South East 15.7 12.4 9.6

8.3

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

-13.5%

>------------

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

South West 14.4 16.1 14.7

15.4

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

+4.7%

>------------

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

Wales 3.3 4.8 4.3

2.6

---------------+-----------+------------+-------------+----------->

>------------

-39.5%

>------------

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