East of England: Criminals cost region around £7.6million in agircultural thefts

Suffolk farmer Darren Giles has had 285 pigs stolen in six months.

Suffolk farmer Darren Giles has had 285 pigs stolen in six months. - Credit: Archant

Thieves have cost the East of England countryside an estimated £7.6million last year, according to new figures.

Statistics from rural insurer NFU Mutual, based on claims data, reveal agricultural crime fell by £1million compared to the previous year.

Tools top the thieves’ wish list along with machinery, diesel and tractors while livestock has also proved popular targets for criminals in the area.

Gangs of pig rustlers targeted the county earlier this year with one Suffolk producer losing £30,000 of animals in a matter of months.

A total of 287 pigs were rustled from Hill Farm in Coddenham in just six months.

Jill Girling, NFU Mutual agent in Ipswich said: “As a mutual organisation owned by, and run for, our members we have a responsibility to work with country people to improve security and tackle crime.

“Even though rural countryside crime has fallen, much more still needs to be done to thwart rural criminals and minimise the devastating impact of crime in the countryside.

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“We’re starting to see the benefits from communities working hard with the police and wider industry. “However, people shouldn’t become complacent; they need to make security a priority on their farms, businesses and homes.”

The results of the survey also indicate that prevention is better than cure, with branches believing high-tech security measures like CCTV and tracker devices, as well as more traditional, physical security measures such as locks are more effective than a greater police presence or tougher sentencing for criminals.

A Suffolk police spokesman said officers are working hard to combat rural crime by tackling offenders who target farms and rural communities.

“Our safer neighbourhood and community safety teams work closely with local communities and have been successful in setting up Farm Watch schemes around the county, which helps people get involved and become the eyes and ears of their local area,” he added. “In 2012 a team of special constables were introduced to strengthen the police’s response to rural crime. “They work in conjunction with safer neighbourhood teams in Mid-Suffolk, and part of their remit is to engage with rural communities and pro-actively patrol farms and rural spaces to provide reassurance and prevent offences. The team works to cut problems such as fly-tipping, target identified rural crime hot spots and develop methods to help prevent rural crime.”

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