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Shutting the gate on rural crime

Farms and open rural spaces offer opportunities for criminals. We can reduce these opportunities and work with local residents to prevent some crimes from happening in the first place. Rural crime matters. It has a huge victim impact, the cost of machinery is vast as well as the disruption to farming.

Whilst our officers work hard to keep you and your property safe, here’s our crime prevention advice for anyone living and working in the countryside.

Sheep worrying

Dog walking a great way to enjoy the countryside, but we cannot stress enough how important it is to be aware of your surroundings when walking through farmland.

Every year, we have reports from farmers whose herds have been devastated by loose dogs. Even if you think your dog is placid and friendly, when faced with a field full of livestock they can be unpredictable. It’s simply not worth taking the risk – keep your dog on a lead and away from livestock.

If your pet chases, scares or attacks sheep, report it to the farmer even if there is no apparent injury, as the stress of worrying by dogs can cause sheep to die and in-lamb ewes to miscarry.

If your dog is found to be responsible for sheep worrying, you could find yourself with a large vet’s bill, prosecution and the strong possibility of your dog being destroyed as a result.

Tack security

We couldn’t resist taking a snap of Britain’s oldest native pony breed whilst on the beat in Exmoor. Our countryside is a magnet for horse lovers, and their yards can be an attractive opportunity for thieves.

If you’re a yard owner, don’t mark your tack room door and screen any tack room windows. Make it difficult for thieves to find your most expensive items, keep the door locked and consider installing an alarm.

Use security products which are compliant with the British Standard and have a kite mark. In addition, look for products which carry the Sold Secure and/or Secured by Design accreditation which have been proven to resist a considerable level of attack.

All tack should be security marked, take photographs of saddlery and keep a comprehensive list of all tack (makes, colours, model numbers etc.) and register property at www.immobilise.com

To join the Horse Watch Scheme or to find out more information, email ruralcrimeteam@avonandsomerset.police.uk.

Land Rovers

Land Rovers, regardless of age, are one of the UK’s most regularly stolen vehicles, particularly the Defender. Many are stolen for parts, others are stolen to order and rapidly exported.

It might sound like simple advice but never leave keys in the ignition or anywhere else where a thief will easily find them. You can also protect your Land Rover by parking in well-lit areas, which are overlooked and if possible block in with other vehicles or heavy plant.

For added security, fit a mechanical immobiliser such as a Thatcham approved steering lock, pedal lock or wheel clamp and consider installing a tracking device.

Join Farm Watch

We established Farm Watch in 2008 to help farmers and members of rural communities provide information to police. It gives police the ability to send live updates, alerting Farm Watch members to thefts or suspicious activity in the area, as well as providing crime prevention tips.

Rural crimes can be reduced by the use of Watch schemes. By using your knowledge and awareness of what is happening on and around your land, you can help to reduce crime and deter criminals.

Sharing any information you see or hear can help inform our intelligence picture of criminal activity. Information received from the public could be the missing piece of a puzzle or break-through in a case, helping us to reunite owners with their stolen goods, catch offenders and reduce the number of people becoming victims of crime.

To join the Farm Watch Scheme in Avon and Somerset or to find out more information, email ruralcrimeteam@avonandsomerset.police.uk

Mental Health

One of the biggest issues farmers face is loneliness, caused by long and often unsocial working hours.

As rural crime officers, we come into contact with people from the agriculture industry every day and we’re familiar with the signs that people need extra support.

As well as living in isolation, other factors that can impact on farmers’ mental health are financial pressures, legislation, and the weather. Farmers often put their work before their own needs, saying they’re too busy to seek help, but we want people to know that their own health – physical and mental – needs to come first.

A lot of mental health services are not set up for people in the rural community, who face unique challenges and will often keep their problems bottled up, but we recommend visiting: https://rabi.org.uk/ for advice and support.