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Police target crime in the countryside
5:00am Sunday 20th October 2013 in News
SHEEP rustling and theft of fuel from combine harvesters are among the biggest threats to farmers in South Somerset, say police.
During a day of action aimed at reducing rural crime last week, officers visited more than 190 farms, including many in Chard, Ilminster and Crewkerne.
Inspector Mark Nicholson, of Avon and Somerset, was the man behind the operation.
He said he was spurred into action when he visited a farm in the summer and found property unsecured and vehicles left unattended with keys in the ignition.
Mr Nicholson said: “It just struck me that this was an open invitation to thieves. Farms are working places but with so much valuable equipment on site it is common sense to encourage people to take sensible and practical security measures.”
The day of action led to 30 new Farmwatch sign-ups, two intelligence reports to police and 25 crime reduction survey requests.
Statistics from insurance company NFU Mutual shows sheep worth £65,000 have been stolen from farms in South Somerset in the last four months alone.
Rural crime officer PC Rowan Hawkins said: “Preventing rural crime is a massive priority for us. We are primarily a rural police force and we need to do whatever we can to cut crime in the countryside.
“Farmers need to know we understand the long-term effect that crime can have on their business and day-to-day working environment. For example, having diesel stolen can severely damage your ability to get the harvest in and that can cost a farmer thousands of pounds in lost crop production.”
David White, who farms near Wells, had expensive garden and power tools stolen from his barn last year. He has since installed alarms and CCTV.
He said: “I have now signed up to Farmwatch. We get texts and information, my farm equipment is now all security-tagged and the buildings alarmed, and the farming community is working together to help each other.
"It’s good to see the police out and about on farms, to see that they are taking this seriously.”
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