The public is being asked to be the eyes and ears of farmers in a bid to tackle rural crime across the south west.

Crimestoppers has launched an appeal for anonymous information to help protect hard-pressed rural communities across the west country.

It calls on everyone to play their part in stopping rural crime as more people are visiting the countryside during the pandemic.

Criminal gangs exploit local wildlife, environment and communities in many ways.

Farmers have to foot the bill for criminal damage, rural residents often feel unsafe in their own homes and local businesses in rural areas can see their income and cashflow adversely affected.

In the year to April 2021, Crimestoppers nationally received nearly 2,700 anonymous reports about rural crime.

Whilst this is a 14 per cent increase on the year before, it suggests a degree of under-reporting.

Last year the charity passed on more than 9,000 anonymous pieces of information given to us from the people of Devon & Cornwall, Avon and Somerset, and Dorset.

Here are some anonymised examples of information received:

• A named man is using aggressive dogs to carry out illegal hunting of deer and game including rabbits. He goes hunting across the fields at named location.

• Local tradesmen at (address given) are burying asbestos in earth mounds on the field (as given). They are also dumping and burning rubbish.

• Named men all involved in the theft of plant machinery from building sites and farms. They are involved in stealing diggers, caterpillars, bobcats and tractors that do not have trackers on. They have been doing this for many years. They sell the stolen goods to others including across Europe.

From its latest claims’ statistics issued earlier in the month, NFU Mutual estimates that rural theft cost the UK a staggering £43.3million in 2020 and the south west region £5.1million.

The charity will focus on wildlife crime, environmental crime and theft.

Initially, it will explore hare coursing, poaching and badger baiting, with advice on how to spot the signs, sharing prevention advice and hearing from organisations who work with the police and other partners to prevent and solve these crimes.

Karen MacDonald, west country regional manager of Crimestoppers, said: “Our charity knows how damaging crime in the countryside can be to local communities, to rural businesses, to farmers, wildlife and the environment.

“Every day we hear from people who are in the know about those involved in damaging our beautiful countryside, but there is so much more we can do.

"By telling us anonymously what you know, whether you live or are visiting our rural areas, your information can help make all the difference.

“A team of professionals working at our charity’s UK Contact Centre anonymise all information received – to ensure the person giving the details is never identified - before passing it on to police to investigate.

"Your voice really can make a difference.

"Working together, we can help protect our precious countryside and rural environment, communities and business from the harm caused by these criminal gangs.”

To report rural crime 100 per cent anonymously, visit and fill in a simple and secure anonymous online form or call 0800 555 111. In an emergency, always call 999.