The geography of the countryside presents unique security challenges. Crime is often harder to prevent and detect due to the remote nature of many rural properties and businesses, making them easy, attractive targets for criminals.
Indeed, according to the 2018 National Rural Crime Survey published in July 2018, 69 percent of farmers and rural-specific business owners have been a victim of crime over the past 12 months. As well as this, the survey also shows that the financial strain of rural crime is a significant worry – with the average financial impact of crime on rural-specific business owners being £4,800.
In another recent report, NFU Mutual estimates that rural crime cost the UK £44.5m last year (2017). And with a 13.4 percent increase on the previous year, rural crime is rising at its fastest rate since 2010.
So what can you do to protect your rural business and help prevent crime at your property? Here are some areas you should consider.
Vehicles and Plant Equipment
Make sure all vehicles and machinery are kept locked and out of sight when not in use and, wherever possible, store in secure sheds overnight, with the keys kept in your possession or in a locked key safe. Consider fitting immobilisers such as hitch locks, wheel clamps or ground anchors for extra security.
To make vehicles less attractive to thieves, mark them with the CESAR marking system and etch the glass with VIN numbers, and add a tracking or location device. Take photos of your vehicles and make a record of machinery serial numbers to help with identification.
Don’t forget to secure smaller power tools or equipment which could be easily targeted.
With ever-increasing fuel prices, diesel theft is also on the rise. To help prevent theft, make sure you store fuel in a secure tank within a bund and with a high-quality lock, and avoid installing it in isolated areas such as outlying buildings.
Consider using a diesel dye which makes it traceable and therefore puts off thieves. There are also anti-siphon devices and level alarms available.
Don’t forget the vehicles themselves: as well as the above vehicle security measures, consider parking with the fuel cap against the wall.
Check fuel levels regularly and keep a record to help identify any thefts as soon as possible. If any suspicious activity does occur, report it to the police immediately to help prevent repeat victimisation and other thefts in the local area.
The volume of metal theft incidents is closely related to the fluctuations in its demand and price, and, in rural areas, farmyards and outbuildings are particularly at risk from being targeted.
Therefore, any scrap metal should be kept in a secure building or container and disposed of regularly and legitimately to make premises less vulnerable to metal thieves.
Access to roofs should be restricted and ladders and other climbing aids stored away. As with other thefts, report any suspicious activity to the police immediately.
There are strict regulations regarding the safe storage of firearms. You need a firearms certificate from the police to possess, buy or acquire a firearm or shotgun, which will only be issued following an inspection of where the guns will be kept. The local police will consider each case individually, and will look at the overall security and the circumstances in each case.
The Home Office has issued a brief guide to firearms security, which offers general advice on storing and transporting firearms safely. Farmers Weekly has also provided some of the key points on gun rules.
It’s not just crimes such as burglary and theft threatening countryside dwellers: nearly six in 10 rural businesses have been a victim of fly-tipping in the last year. Not only is illegally-dumped waste an unsightly nuisance, it’s also expensive for business owners, with each occurrence costing an average of £1,000 to clear up!
You should of course ensure that your own business waste is disposed of in a safe, responsible way. Report any incidents of fly-tipping to your local council as quickly as possible as leaving waste can encourage further incidents.
Vandalism is a significant problem for many rural business owners. In fact, vandals are causing huge losses on farms and are jeopardising forage supplies. Vandalism can be anything from graffiti and broken windows to deliberate damage to property and even arson. Indeed, a particularly worrying trend seen in recent years has been the increase in haybales being set on fire.
To avoid becoming a victim of vandalism, in may be worth installing, maintaining or upgrading perimeter security features such as gates and fences. Security lights and CCTV can act as a useful deterrent and can be used to illuminate areas containing valuable plant and machinery. It may also be worthwhile installing unbreakable glass in outbuildings and other properties which hold valuable assets. Finally, and perhaps most cost-effectively, you should erect clear signage indicating that vandals will be prosecuted if they choose to damage any property.
As well as the above methods for preventing specific crimes, there are several general security measures you can take to improve security across the board.
Ensure you have effective locking systems on buildings, outbuildings and other property, which could include deadbolts, padlocks and chains to prevent opportunist crime – and make sure you use them! Lockable gates and strategically-placed physical barriers such as fences will make it difficult for vehicles to get through and make a quick getaway.
Consider fitting burglar alarms with infra-red motion detection and security lighting in yards and drives to not only help deters criminals, but also alert you to any unwanted individuals on your property. Using CCTV can not only act as a deterrent and help detect suspicious behaviour, but can also help with identifying criminals. Ensure there is appropriate signage alerting people of the presence of any security systems. You can also use dogs or geese as an early warning.
Churchill Security is a national security company offering a wide range of security services. Ideal for protecting and monitoring rural properties, we can provide highly trained security guards and security services including physical guarding, mobile patrols, random inspections, CCTV surveillance and supervision of vehicles on the site.