Farmers in Dorset are being offered a range of tools and techniques to help protect their property from criminals operating in the countryside.

Rural insurer NFU Mutual is working in partnership with Dorset Police in a drive to reduce rural crime.

Rural crime cost the county £685,000 in 2018 according to NFU Mutual’s rural crime report, with quad bikes and machinery the items most commonly targeted by thieves.

Bright yellow posters warning cold callers not to visit are being made available through NFU Mutual agents across Dorset and a data tagging event “CESAR-It Day”, organised by M. J. Fry Agricultural Engineers at their at their Higher Woodsford farm headquarters in Dorchester on Tuesday, November 26, will provide farmers with an opportunity to have their machinery professionally marked to prevent theft and help identify recovered goods.

The Construction & Agricultural Equipment Security Registration (CESAR) scheme uses identification plates and high-tech microdots to mark machinery and link it to its true owner. The markers are extremely difficult to remove and, in some cases, are not even visible.

Tom Balchin, rural engagement officer for Dorset Police, said: “Rural crime is a major issue for farmers and communities in Dorset but by implementing a number of prevention and education measures, we hope to reduce the impact of this. Cold callers who visit farms to stake-out if there’s anything worth stealing can be deterred by signs which clearly state ‘We won’t buy from you; we won’t sell to you’.”

Tom added: “If farmers have signed up to Farm Watch and have the cold caller poster on display at the farm entrance, and they then face threats or intimidation from unwelcome visitors, the police can escalate an Anti-Social Behaviour (ASBO) process. Our first step would be to engage with the caller to encourage them to stop but if they continue to intimidate, we can apply to the court for a Criminal Behaviour Order.

“We want rural communities to understand that we take this issue very seriously and that with their support in reporting incidents, we can reduce this type of crime."

Matt Uren, Senior Agent at NFU Mutual Dorchester, said: “Together with Dorset Police, we want to give farmers the best tools and advice to protect their farms and help to reduce rural crime in our county.

“Cold-calling can be extremely intimidating and farmers can begin to fear leaving their farms in case criminals return, leading to feelings of isolation. We not only want to help protect farmers’ property, but their wellbeing too.”

Dorset Police’s rural tractor has also been designed to raise awareness of rural crime, taken to shows and events by rural affairs officers, who also provide crime prevention support and advice. The tractor was given to the police by M. J. Fry Agricultural Engineers and has been sponsored by NFU Mutual.