Survey assesses impact of organised crime on Devon and Cornwall’s farming communities
Organised crime may be having an increasing impact on rural communities across the UK. In its 2020 Rural Crime Report, NFU Mutual recorded a 9% increase in rural crime with some of the highest increases (14%) in the South West.
Now a new project led by the University of Plymouth is working to assess the precise effects of those rises on farmers, and their families, in Devon and Cornwall.
Working alongside colleagues at Devon and Cornwall Police and the University of Winchester, the project will help identify and map the impacts of organised crime in rural areas.
In the first study of its kind, farmers are being asked to complete an online Rural Crime Survey about their experiences of crime and whether it concerns them on a day-to-day basis.
It asks if they feel safe on their farms and whether they feel crime is a problem in their community, but also how those feelings have changed in recent years.
The survey also about the nature of crimes farmers are experiencing, and how that is different to incidents that have happened in the past.

The research is being funded by the Seale-Hayne Educational Trust and led by Richard Yarwood, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Plymouth. He said: 
“Being a victim of crime, wherever it takes place and whatever its nature, can obviously be a harrowing experience. Reports suggest there is a growing fear of crime among farmers, concerned about everything from the theft of vehicle parts and animal rustling, to fly-tipping and much more. By looking at the physical aspects of crime, but also its emotional effects, we can create a rounded picture of rural crime in Devon and Cornwall. By encouraging people to open up, and ensuring they are listened to, we hope to improve both the safety and wellbeing of farming communities across the region.”

<p>Richard Yarwood</p>

Professor Richard Yarwood

As well as being promoted online, details of the survey will be shared at agricultural shows across Devon and Cornwall this summer.
It will then form the basis of a report that will be used to inform both situational crime prevention measures undertaken by farmers and rural business, but also help police help proactively and effectively target their resources.
The result is expected to be reductions in rural crime, financial loss and emotional harm suffered by farmers and their families and other rural businesses as a result of organised criminal activity.
In addition, it is hoped the initiative will reduce financial losses suffered by associated businesses with a rural focus such as insurance companies.
PC Martin Beck, Rural Affairs Officer for Devon and Cornwall Police, is also part of the project. He said:
“This project aims to use our rural communities to help map the nature of the crime, and analyse the impact of crime and fear of crime, on farming. It will also help us examine ways to evaluate and improve farm security. We are hoping to reach a wide audience across the South West and would encourage as many people as possible to take part in the survey to help give us an insight into the situation across our region. The information from the report compiled from this survey will be used to inform and shape future Devon and Cornwall Police approaches to engaging with and policing rural communities.”

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