Tackling rural crime a key plank in building local economy, says Suffolk Police & Crime Commissioner

Ryan Lincoln
Tim Passmore

Tackling rural crime is central to attracting investment in agriculture and food and drink production – and farmers and law enforcement agencies need to work together to prevent criminality and drive down offending levels.

Tim Passmore

That was the message outlined to around 60 Norfolk and Suffolk farmers by Suffolk Police & Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore at the latest joint NFU/Lovewell Blake Farmers’ Evening in Halesworth.

Mr Passmore stressed the importance of working together to collect crime data – saying that ‘nearly every single crime now has a digital footprint’.

The Commissioner, who has held the post for 11 years, outlined the main threats from rural criminals, including theft of fertilisers and agro-chemicals, theft and worrying of livestock, theft of agricultural machinery, and fly-tipping.

“When it comes to agriculture and food production, it is a really big part of our local GDP,” Mr Passmore told those attending the meeting.  “If you keep crime levels low in rural areas, it will encourage investment in our rural economy.

“Criminals aren’t always stupid.  They might be wicked and evil people, but they will take any opportunity to exploit things at your expense.”

He said that the pattern of rural crime has changed dramatically, with cyber involvement and organised criminals now playing a much bigger role.

“Nearly every single crime now has a digital footprint.  We have a really good up-to-date cyber unit here in Halesworth, shared with Norfolk.  The sheer volume of data which has to be sifted and analysed in order to get a conviction is quite extraordinary.

“In addition, we are finding that more and more organised crime groups are looking at the countryside.”

Mr Passmore said his priorities were raising public awareness of how crime affects farming and rural businesses, and lobbying central government to achieve what he called a ‘fairer funding settlement’ for Suffolk.

Lovewell Blake agricultural partner Ryan Lincoln, who chaired the event, said, “Rural crime is an issue which affects every single farmer and every rural business, so it was good to hear what a high priority our Police & Crime Commissioner places on tackling this problem.”

A report from NFU Mutual in 2022 showed that the cost of rural crime rose by over 40% in the first part of that year, with rural theft estimated to cost the UK £40.5 million a year – with fuel theft and the theft of high value farm machinery the rural crime farmers are most concerned about.

The event was one of a series of regular Farmers’ Evenings in Halesworth organised jointly by Suffolk Coastal NFU and chartered accountants Lovewell Blake.  The next event will take place on 26th April.  

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