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Rural crime: protect your farm from being a victim

The British farming industry contributes over £120 billion to the country’s economyas the foundation of food and drink manufacturing. Though many of these farm businesses run other enterprises, farm shops, wedding venues, and B&Bs, all to help generate additional income which present attractive opportunities for thieves. Still, there are ways to protect against criminal activity, preventing loss and disruption to your business.

What’s at risk on your farm?

In a survey carried out by the Countryside Alliance2, agricultural machinery theft was one of the top ten reported rural crimes, along with theft from outbuildings. You can do some simple things to increase security on your farm to make it harder for thieves who try to access your land, livestock, and equipment.

Risks to farm machinery

Pressure washers, welders, generators, and pumps, to name a few pieces of machinery, are all costly pieces of kit to replace. Make it difficult for thieves by storing all machinery in your most secure locations, using solid locks to prevent unwanted visitors. Inner lockups inside locked buildings can act as a further deterrent. Never leave anything in open yards or a location that makes them easy pickings.

Protecting farm buildings

Lock your buildings with hardened steel padlocks that are resistant to cutting. Wherever possible, install alarms and set up CCTV and security lighting around the building. Fitting lights and sirens can be an effective way of alarming a remote building in isolated areas. These devices can cause the thief to leave a building quickly, as well as alerting you.

By adopting these security approaches and making them visible to intruders, they may prevent an attempted burglary, avoiding damage to your building. However, a note of caution is that security systems themselves are not immune to being tampered with. Think carefully about where your cameras are located so they’re not accessible for vandalism. You may also want to consider using solar-powered CCTV if your setting is suitable, these are wireless and environmentally friendly.

Making farm property and land safe

Make sure you and your employees remain as vigilant as possible. Look out for suspicious vehicles and drones operating in your area; you and your team could be under surveillance, with thieves casing out your yard and premises.

If it is possible, secure the perimeter around your buildings and the yard to deter intruders. Mature hedges, blocked field openings, and entrances protected with security gates all help prevent unwanted access. The longer intruders spend trying to tackle these barriers, the greater the chance of being caught in the act. If a thief does succeed in penetrating through your defences, CCTV and security lighting could help deter them from going any further. Another benefit of having CCTV installed is if possessions are stolen, you can share the footage with authorities to help identify the perpetrators.

Keeping farm vehicles secure

Agricultural vehicle thefts are usually well planned. Criminals stake out isolated locations and mostly operate late at night3. Stolen vehicles are often transported in containers, with many taken out of the UK and sold overseas4. Simply locking your tractors and trucks in a garage is not enough to protect against theft, so if you can, consider adopting the following to your security system:

  • Install immobilisers
  • Apply practical anti-theft devices such as steering and ram locks or a dead man’s handle
  • Use chains and locks on fixed points for quad bikes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs)
  • Keep keys in a safe place, ensuring they aren’t visible from doors and windows etc
  • Lock-up vehicles and remove keys when they’re not in use. This doesn’t just apply to night-time; thieves operate during the day too

Keeping your farm safe

Sadly, even with all these measures in place, farm thefts do happen regularly, and your farming business could be a victim of rural crime. You may find support from your local farming community – join a farm watch or set up a group if one doesn’t already exist. Even a WhatsApp group can help feed local intelligence back to you, forewarning you of local criminal activity.

As well as building relationships with neighbouring farms, engage with the wider community: local police officers, villages, and businesses so everyone is looking out for each other. Be sure to share any intel with the local police.

Be prepared to assist the police in the event of theft by keeping a register with photographs and descriptions of livestock, tools, equipment, vehicles, and other valuables.

You can also contact the police on 101 or your local Police and Community Safety Partnership (PCSPs) for rural crime prevention advice and report suspicious activity.

Read The Metropolitan Police’s rural crime prevention tips.

Finally, take care. The farming community lives in isolated rural locations. When you go out in the yard at night, you don’t know what or who you’re going to meet. You may come up against ruthless tactics. Use common sense, employ the police, get back up, and don’t confront the thieves directly.

Protecting your farm against rural crime risks

If you want to read more about rural crime and farm insurance you can download our Managing Risks in Farming report here.

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