'Organised crime' affecting rural communities in Devon and Cornwall

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Farming
Image caption,
Tractors and other machinery have been targeted by organised criminals

Organised crime may be having an increasing impact on rural communities, according to police.

A new project will assess the effects of a rise in rural crime on farmers and their families in Devon and Cornwall.

Farmers have been asked to complete an online survey about their experiences of crime in what organisers claim is the first study of its kind.

The police are working with academics to deliver the survey and look at possible solutions.

PC Martin Beck, rural affairs officer with Devon and Cornwall Police, 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."

A 2020 Rural Crime Report by NFU Mutual found there had been a 14% rise in rural crime in the South West.

The project is being led by the University of Plymouth, in collaboration with Devon and Cornwall Police and the University of Winchester.

The survey asks if farmers 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 nature of crimes farmers are experiencing, and how they differ from past incidents, will also be explored in the survey.

'Harrowing'

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.

Prof Yarwood said being a victim of crime can be "a harrowing experience".

He said reports suggested a growing fear of crime among farmers, concerned about everything from the theft of vehicle parts, animal rustling, fly-tipping 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," Prof Yarwood said.

Details of the survey will be shared online and at agricultural shows across Devon and Cornwall.

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