Defeating rural crime: Advice from top insurer

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Data from rural insurer supported by National Crime Agency report

Information from the largest rural insurer strongly suggests that crime in the countryside increased by more than 20% in the first half of 2017. The figures given in Rural Crime Report 2017 released on 13 August by NFU Mutual shows a resurgence in criminal activity after a promising fall of 4% in 2016.

These figures support the observation of increased activity by organised criminal gangs that are executing a strategy of spreading crime to rural communities. The so-called ‘county lines’ drug dealing phenomenon is currently seeing smaller towns and communities across the UK being targeted by drug gangs from larger population centres, such as London and Manchester.

However, the organised crime gangs (OCGs) are not limiting their activities to drug dealing. OCGs are targeting rural businesses and properties to steal high value items. Popular items favoured by the crooks are ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles) quad bikes, tools and fuel oil and diesel. According to NFU Mutual, South Yorkshire (+53.7%), Essex (+44%) and Gloucestershire (+38.1%) saw the greatest increases in the cost of rural crime year-on-year from 2015 to 2016.

Compiled using knowledge from   across UK law enforcement, government departments and the intelligence community, the 2017 National Strategic Assessment released by the National Crime Agency (NCA) on 29 June, highlighted the menace of ‘Organised Acquisitive Crime’ (OAC). There are believed to be 5,866 active gangs operating in the UK, comprising in excess of 39,000 members, showing the scale of the challenge faced by British Police forces.

Farm machinery, tractors and Land Rovers are being stolen to order for export to overseas markets. Containerised loads of items have been discovered on sea routes to the Republic of Ireland, which may be seen by organised criminals as an indirect and therefore less risky route to markets in the EU and beyond.

 Year-on-year decrease wiped out 

Region           Cost to UK 2015          Cost to UK 2016         % Change

East                      £5.4m                          £5.6m                      3.70%

N East                  £6.7m                          £7.3m                       8.70%

Midlands              £6.8m                          £6.7m                      -1.90%

N Ireland              £3.0m                          £2.5m                     -14.90%

N West                 £3.6m                          £2.8m                     -24.40%

Scotland               £2.4m                          £1.6m                     -32.10%

S East                  £6.4m                          £5.9m                        -8%

S West                 £5.3m                          £5.6m                       5.60%

Wales                  £1.5m                          £1.3m                      -7.50%

Cost to the UK     £41m                         £39.2m                      -4.30%

*Source - NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2017

Data shows a promising year-on-year fall in the cost of rural crime from 2015-16 has been wiped out by a sharp upturn of over 20% in the first half of 2017. 

The total of insured losses recorded by NFU Mutual across 300 or so of its local branches across the UK in 2016 was £39.2 million. With the assets of as many as 70% of the nation’s farmers and many thousands of rural businesses on its books, NFU figures may be read as  strongly indicative, however, the true cost is still obscured. The losses of other insurers not included and uninsured losses that don’t get reported or counted mean the true figure is likely to be significantly higher.

The 2015-16 decrease was attributed to the success of joint initiatives involving police forces, NFU Mutual, and other stakeholder organisations. This remains a key element in the strategy to beat rural crime. Communities, farmers and rural organisations are participants in rural neighbourhood watch schemes, where acting as an organised collective they are encouraged to use their eyes and ears to report thefts and suspicious vehicles.

Defeating rural crime

Although one of the other issues facing countryside communities - the question of rural broadband and mobile coverage - limits connectivity for some, digital technologies and social media platforms are important central points around which to organise collaborative community activity. 

The NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2017 concludes with advice on improving rural security. It seems that technology has a role to play here too. Besides mobilising the community and improving physical security, the insurer points out that electronic security is an important element in securing the rural economy.

Digital technologies have revolutionised the effectiveness of CCTV and integrated security systems. Quality systems from reputable installers provide a three pronged approach to defeating organised crime gangs targeting the rural economy.

• Deterrence

Signage warning of CCTV, as well as the physical presence of cameras and other security devices discourages criminals, and may make them seek less well protected sites.

• Detection

Detecting criminal activity in real time enables appropriate responses from accredited monitoring services with the ability to verify criminal activity and notify police.

• Identification

Recording people participating and vehicles being used in the pursuit of criminal enterprises enables identification through facial recognition and vehicle registration marks.

Rapid Deployment Cameras

Conventional CCTV installation is often technically challenging in a rural setting. Cameras and other integrated electronic security measures need power and the ability to communicate in real time with monitoring stations. This may simply not be possible with conventional cameras, where the cost of wired networking and providing power lines may be economically prohibitive. 

The Rapid Deployment Camera overcomes such issues. Options for solar power and a range of wireless network connectivity modes provide flexible options for real time monitoring and control by CCTV monitoring personnel. 

Advanced features including HD (Hi-Definition), PZT (Pan, Zoom, Tilt), Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), facial recognition, software analytics, and remote automated monitoring and alerting are powerful tools for defeating criminals seeking ‘easy pickings off the land’.

Integrating security systems

For suitable sites, integration offers the ability to bring systems together at a central monitoring station. This may be at an internal security station or at an external emergency service compliant monitoring station. 

Integrating CCTV with the following systems supports better security in rural settings:

• Access control

 Audio entry systems

 Number keypad entry systems

 Biometric fingerprint readers entry systems

 Swipe cards/fobs (‘token’) entry systems 

• Alarm systems

Intruder alarms

Fire alarms 

• Sound monitoring

• PA systems to warn trespassers off before committing intrusion offences

• Gates and barriers

The key advantages of integrating security systems include:

Verification of fire and intruder alarm activation with visual information from CCTV systems eliminates false alarms (false positives), enabling emergency service response to be correctly prioritised

Real-time camera images can be viewed on mobile devices, so first responders are equipped with live footage of the scene

Verifying alarm activation with CCTV enables Public Address systems to be used by monitoring station personnel to issue verbal warnings, helping to deter further trespass or criminal activity

Help with rural security from iC2

For advice on any aspect of securing a rural site, simply contact iC2 CCTV on 020 3747 1800 or visit www.ic2cctv.com

Click here for the NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2017 at nfmutual.co.uk

Click here for the National Crime Agency 2017 National Strategic Assessment at nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk