With farm theft and other rural crime on the increase, what can you do to improve your farm security and minimise the chances of your farm being targeted?

Rising rural crime

National Rural Crime Action Week took place from 18th September to 24th September. During the week Police and Crime Commissioners and their forces outlined the work they have been doing to tackle the recent rise in rural crime.

In her fortnightly update to the Police and Crime Commissioner on 29 September 2023, Catherine Roper, Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police commented:

“Whilst we have seen a rise in rural crime over the last two years – which includes crime such as machinery and agricultural theft, livestock theft, livestock worrying, poaching, criminal damage, arson, heritage crime, and wildlife crime, often rural crime is underreported. Acquisitive rural crime has a huge impact on our farming and rural communities and so this week of action was really important in terms of not only raising awareness of rural crime and how to report it, but also supporting our rural communities with crime prevention advice and enforcement activity.”

The serious impact of rising rural crime was detailed in the NFU Mutuals Rural Crime Report 2023, in 2022 the cost of rural crime rose sharply by 22%, reaching a total estimate of £49.5 million based on NFU Mutual claims statistics.

Improving farm security

To keep your house and farm secure, there are some general things you can do:

  • invest in good locks for doors and windows
  • be aware of people or vehicles coming and going and report any suspicious activity to the police
  • keep a register with photographs and descriptions of animals, tools, equipment, vehicles and any other valuables
  • join the Wiltshire Police Farm Watch scheme, a free scheme to message about criminal activity and gain advice

Security around the farm

There are things you can do to make your farm more secure:

  • check fencing, hedges and walls regularly – they should be robust and well-maintained
  • restrict access to your yard with locked gates and security barriers – the fewer ways in and out the better
  • fit alarms to storage sheds and other buildings
  • consider installing a CCTV system to your yard, sheds and any other vulnerable areas
  • invest in good lighting for your farmyard

You can use two levels of lighting, a working level and a lower security level. Using low-energy lighting will keep the cost down.

Technology, like point-to-point electronic beams, can help to protect your property. Technology adds to good security and vigilance but doesn’t replace it. At Security Watch we are experts in risk assessment and the implementation of effective security systems, including CCTV installation and monitoring.

Keeping livestock secure

Livestock can be at risk from thieves, especially if they graze far from your main yard and buildings. You should:

  • regularly check fields with livestock
  • keep hedges, fences and gates in good repair
  • keep sheds and stockyard gates closed and locked
  • always tag your livestock
  • take photographs or videos of valuable animals with the brand or ear tags clearly visible
  • keep a recent and accurate record of all your livestock

Livestock identification is essential for proof of ownership and it can help to deter thieves.

Preventing metal theft

Copper and lead are valuable metals and are often targeted by thieves. The metal around your farm such as gates, tools, machine parts, and cabling could be at risk. You should:

  • remove or delay fitting metal such as copper tanks and copper pipes if your farmhouse or farm buildings are going to be empty
  • mark metal with tamper-proof stickers, UV spray or grease – use your postcode and house number
  • use warning signs on vacant properties that metal has been marked or removed
  • consider using anti-climb paint with a warning to say it has been used
  • consider using artificial lead – it is worth less and is easier to replace if stolen
  • consider installing permanent or temporary CCTV

Keeping tools and equipment secure

Hand tools and smaller items of equipment can be easily stolen. You should:

  • lock away tools and equipment not in use
  • mark tools and equipment with your house number and postcode or your Business Identifier number

Keeping vehicles and machinery safe

Farm vehicles and machinery are expensive and high-risk items. You should:

  • secure or immobilise vehicles, plant, trailers and machinery when not in use
  • remove machinery and vehicles from fields overnight
  • keep valuable vehicles and machinery in a securely locked shed
  • always mark your vehicles with your house number and postcode or your Business Identifier number
  • always remove keys from parked vehicles
  • consider fitting an electronic vehicle marking system or tracking device

We hope this guide is useful and if you have any questions or concerns about your farm security we’re happy to help, simply get in touch.