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Rural crime: "I fear for the safety of my staff"

James Harrison

James Harrison

Thefts, trespassing and even beatings are among the dangers being faced by farmers on a regular basis, it has been claimed.

And the problem has become so bad for some that a major Royal Borough landowner has claimed a crime is committed on his land at a rate of at least once a day.

Borough councillor Colin Rayner (Con, Horton and Wraysbury), who farms about 1,500 hectares in Windsor, as well as in Stubbings and at BCA, was speaking following the publication of a damning report on rural crime by NFU Mutual, an insurer.

“I fear for the safety of my staff,” said Cllr Rayner, “When you come across these criminals they’re not very nice people.

“There was a farmer who came across some hare coursers in Sussex and they beat him with an iron bar. So I ask my workers to back off, call me and call the police.”

He added that the problem had become so bad on his land that he now only reports the most serious offences to police for fear of being labelled a ‘vexatious complainer’.

Instead, he has resorted to spending £50,000 last year alone on improved fencing and other security measures in an attempt to deter would-be criminals – and yet his security bills continue to rise.

He accepts that extra fences and gates are ‘ugly’ and spoil views of the countryside, but that he has been left with no choice as he tries to safeguard his workers.

The NFU Mutual report, which was published on Monday, claimed rural crime cost the UK £39.2million last year.

Buckinghamshire was one of the worst affected counties, left with a bill of more than £600,000, according to the figures.

According to David Grainge, an NFU Mutual senior agent based in Buckingham, criminals are becoming increasingly ‘brazen’, forcing farmers into ever more drastic measures to protect their livestock and equipment, especially tractors, 4x4s and quad bikes.

He added: “In some parts of the county, farmers are having to turn their farmyards into fortresses to protect themselves from repeated thieves who are targeting quads, tractors and power tools. They are using tracking devices on tractors, video and infra-red surveillance in their farm yards and even DNA markers to protect sheep from rustlers.”

Visit www.nfumutual.co.uk/ruralcrime to read the report in full.

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