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In 2015 the first National Rural Crime Survey was published. Three years later and the nation’s largest report of rural residents and businesses now engages with over 20,000 people. The report explores why crime and anti- social behaviour is leaving rural communities and businesses frustrated, undervalued and isolated.

Concerns are growing about policing; however in rural communities there is a fear that they are being left behind. Furthermore the survey suggests that the needs of rural communities differ greatly to their urban counterparts. With over 10 million people living in rural areas these are startling trends, and there is a fundamental mismatch between the expectations of rural people and the service being delivered by policing.

The feeling among those who live and work in the countryside is that rural crime does not compare to urban crime when assessed against the police’s definition of ‘threat, risk and harm’. This constant prioritisation of urban issues is having a knock on effect on rural livelihood.

Rural communities enjoy different benefits to the urban lifestyle but due to geographical isolation and remoteness from services that urban area take for granted, there is a frustration that crime is hidden by a picture postcard view of the countryside. Those who live and work in the countryside know the challenges that can exist – this survey serves to illustrate that.

From the perception that police forces are too remote and distant from peoples lives, to the view that it is simply not worth reporting crimes because they will not be investigated, there is a real risk that rural businesses will stop investing in the countryside because of the threat that they will become a victim.

Figures showed that 27 per cent of people in the countryside believe that their area is not being policed properly. The National Rural Crime Survey drew the following conclusions:

  • Many crimes in rural communities go unreported – especially by business owners, because they don’t feel the offence will be taken seriously or anything will be done.

Around a third of rural crimes go unreported and, worryingly, this figure is rising. Compared to 2015 statistics, figures for non-reporting have increased by two-thirds for businesses and the root cause seems to be that the the criminal justice system does not understand the issues or do anything about them.

The cumulative impact occurs because minor offences are not taken seriously and it opens the door for more serious crimes to be committed in the future. The 2015 report showed a cycle fuelled by a lack of confidence in policing, this means rural crimes are underestimated and not prioritised, leading to perceptions of poor response, which discourages reporting; so it continues.

  • Farmers and agricultural businesses are facing huge challenges – and they don’t feel enough is being done to support them

Half of rural business told the survey that crime has a moderate or great impact on their lives – significantly above the figure for rural residents.

(48 per cent vs 30 per cent). 60 per cent are worried about becoming a victim of crime (compared to 36 per cent of rural residents), and there are indications that corncern about the welfar of business has risen since the last survey.

  • The financial impact of crime is substantial – for residents and particularly, for business who are the lifeblood of the rural economy

The financial strain of crime is significant – the average financial impact of crime on rural business owners is £4,800, a 13 per cent increase since 2015. It is not just the cost of replacement that has to be considered here but repairs, loss of earnings and upgrading of security (there are tips available in this months Business Brainwaves, P12).

Around 40-50 per cent of all victims – residential or business – incur some kind of financial cost. However insurers NFU Mutual estimate that only a quarter of crimes lead to a claim.

Following their findings the National Rural Crime Network proposed a series of recommendations including the following to help protect and serve rural businesses:

  • More focus needs to be placed on farmers and specific rural businesses

More must be done to engage and communicate with farmers and specific rural businesses who are the lifeblood of the rural economy. Rural businesses are bearing the brunt of crime, it is often targeted and carried out by organised groups, and policing needs to provide action and reassurance to those specifically affected.

  • More needs to be done to help rural residents and business with crime prevention

Rural financial services, insurers and the police need to do more to help rural people and businesses with effective crime prevention. The survey shows that there is good work already being undertaken but further work is needed to know which protections are the most effective and for who. The next step is to implement those security upgrades locally, particularly among those rural business who are most at risk.

Information and data provided by the Report and Recommendations for the 2018 National Rural Crime Survey.

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