Survey assesses impact of organised crime on Devon and Cornwall's farming communities

27 Jun 2022

A University of Winchester criminologist is lending expertise to a new project led by the University of Plymouth to assess the precise effects of organised crime on farmers, and their families, in Devon and Cornwall.

Professor Tim Hall is working alongside co-researcher Richard Yarwood, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Plymouth, and colleagues at Devon and Cornwall Police to help identify and map the impacts of organised crime in rural areas. He will be assisting with the data collection phase of the research and will be bringing his expertise into transnational organised crime and applying it to the problem of organised farm crime in Devon and Cornwall.

Organised crime may be having an increasing impact on rural communities across the UK. In its 2020 Rural Crime Report, NFU Mutual recorded a nine per cent increase in rural crime with some of the highest increases (14 per cent) in the South West.

Farmers are being asked to complete an online Rural Crime Survey about their experiences of crime and whether it concerns them on a day-to-day basis.

It asks if they 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 survey also asks about the nature of crimes farmers are experiencing, and how that is different to incidents that have happened in the past.

Professor Hall said: "Organised crime has been seriously impacting the agricultural community in the UK for more than a decade now. Despite this there has been very little academic research into the issue. We hope this project will tell us more about the patterns and impacts of organised crime in the countryside and will also inform how this growing area of rural crime can be more effectively tackled."

Professor Yarwood said: "Being a victim of crime, wherever it takes place and whatever its nature, can obviously be a harrowing experience. Reports suggest there is a growing fear of crime among farmers, concerned about everything from the theft of vehicle parts and animal rustling, to fly-tipping and much 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. By encouraging people to open up, and ensuring they are listened to, we hope to improve both the safety and wellbeing of farming communities across the region."

The report will form the basis of a report that will be used to inform both situational crime prevention measures undertaken by farmers and rural business, but also help police help proactively and effectively target their resources.

The result is expected to be reductions in rural crime, financial loss and emotional harm suffered by farmers and their families and other rural businesses as a result of organised criminal activity.
In addition, it is hoped the initiative will reduce financial losses suffered by associated businesses with a rural focus such as insurance companies.

PC Martin Beck, Rural Affairs Officer for Devon and Cornwall Police, is also part of the project. He 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.

"We are hoping to reach a wide audience across the South West and would encourage as many people as possible to take part in the survey to help give us an insight into the situation across our region. The information from the report compiled from this survey will be used to inform and shape future Devon and Cornwall Police approaches to engaging with and policing rural communities."

The research is funded by the Seale-Hayne Educational Trust.

Tim Hall's ongoing research is unified by an interest in illicit and illegal practices and those that sit at the intersections of the licit and illicit. These he examines through the lens of economic geography, This research encompasses such practices as gambling, organised crime, cybercrime and the regulatory responses to these activities. He has looked particularly at the significance of criminal organisations in the contemporary global economy and has published extensively in these fields and presented the results of his research at a number of international conferences.

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