More than half of farmers and rural business owners have been a victim of crime in the previous year – with another quarter saying they are worried about becoming a victim.

Figures presented to the Police and Crime Panel on Friday, February 7 showed that as well as the 52 per cent of Devon and Cornwall farmers and rural-specific business owners who had been victims and the 26 per cent who feared they would, only 26 per cent felt their local police were doing a good job.

The National Police Chief’s Council Rural Affairs highlighted ‘the fear of crime as increasing and a low satisfaction rate of police performance in rural areas'. As a result, Devon and Cornwall Police have doubled their number of rural neighbourhood beat managers (NBM) as part of their approach to rural crime.

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A report of inspector Rob Bolt, neighbourhood policing lead, Devon & Cornwall Police, to the Police and Crime Panel, outlined the response of Devon and Cornwall Police to rural crime.

Insp Bolt said: “In October 2018, the two rural NBMs were recruited, PC Martin Beck (Devon) and PC Chris Collins (Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly). The NBMs worked closely with the already established Special Constabulary Rural Engagement Teams, seeking to enhance this network of officers operating within rural areas.

“There will be further investment in the Rural Policing Team, as the chief constable has committed to expanding the team, with a 2020/21 commitment to increase the rural NBMs from two to four in February 2020, with aspiration to further invest against the uplift.”

His report added that the team will seek to further develop community engagement through Farm Watch and Horse Watch, to increase two way communication and crime prevention, strengthening internal Basic Command Unit links to support a wider internal cultural change to highlight and represent rural community needs when police resources are allocated, and that they have developed links with the Duchy and Bicton College and have an agreement to foster greater links through mutual training, so that the team are engaged with the future of farming.

The rural affairs priorities are:

  • Farm machinery, plant and vehicle theft including quad bikes and all-terrain vehicles, modern and vintage tractors and tools and equipment from outbuildings
  • Livestock offences including livestock theft, worrying and attacks
  • Fuel theft including heating oil, theft and diesel
  • Equine crime including horse trailer and horse box theft, horse theft and tack theft
  • Fly tipping
  • Poaching