Farmers see 'little point' in reporting rural crime

  • Published
Image caption,
The UFU has claimed many famers do not feel it is worth reporting rural crime

Some farmers believe there is little point in reporting rural crime because the police and courts do not deal with it robustly, it has been claimed.

Now the main farming union in Northern Ireland is surveying its members on their experience of how farm thefts are dealt with by the authorities.

It plans to push the police for a bigger focus on the issue.

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) says rural crime has a major "psychological impact" on victims.

Families are often burgled while they are asleep.

It happened to County Tyrone farmer Richard Beattie last year.

'Room for improvement'

He had a jeep, trailer and quad all stolen after a three-man gang broke into his house near Omagh while he and his wife and three children were in bed.

The equipment taken came to a value of about £45,000.

Image caption,
Farmers have often been burgled while they are asleep

He said the police had arrived quickly and had the benefit of his CCTV images of the theft.

But he said it was it was still under investigation, no-one had been arrested, the equipment was still missing and his insurance claim was still outstanding.

He added he felt there was "room for improvement" in how the investigation of such thefts were handled.

He also said there needed to be a better understanding of the emotional impact of such crime - with victims often left feeling that they had been watched.

'No point' in phoning police

UFU deputy president Victor Chestnutt said the purpose of the survey was to get a better understanding of how farmers felt rural crime was treated, ahead of meetings scheduled with the PSNI to discuss the issue.

He said the attitude of some farmers was: "I have been a victim, I've lost it, there's no point in ringing those boys (the police) they'll do nothing".

He added that the UFU was keen to counter that view and encourage farmers to report rural crime.

'Concern for all of us'

Supt Brian Kee, PSNI service lead for rural and wildlife crime said: "We are committed to reducing rural and agricultural crime across Northern Ireland.

Image source, PeopleImages
Image caption,
Farm equipment can cost large sums of money

"Police want to work towards reducing opportunities for this type of crime by increasing public awareness, working with other partner agencies to identify ways of preventing crime, and targeting and arresting those committing such offences.

"Rural and agriculture crime affects more than just those people who are direct victims; it impacts on jobs, the environment and the economy.

"It is a concern for all of us and I would therefore ask for assistance from the public in providing information that may support us in continuing to prevent crime and arresting those individuals or gangs that carry out offences within rural communities.

"We continue to work closely with our partners in the rural crime partnership to identify preventative measures and to educate the rural community on how best to protect their property and possessions.

"We look forward to working with the Ulster Farmers Union following the publication of the results of their survey."

Mr Chesnutt said farmers understood the PSNI had a lot of competing priorities but they did not believe rural crime came "high enough up their pecking order".

He added that when cases did come before the courts, victims were often left disappointed, with the perception that sentences rarely reflected the impact of the crimes.