The NFU on Farm Thefts

Brian Finnerty of the National Farmers Union comments on the recent increase in farm thefts in the Eastern region. Broadcast at 08:25 on Friday 3rd September 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire hosted by Paul Stainton.

PS: All this week on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire we’ve brought you a special investigation on rural crime. We found out that metal thefts have tripled, tractors have been targeted by organised gangs exporting them to places like Iraq, and the situation appears to be getting worse. Let’s have a chat with Brian Finnerty from the NFU. Morning Brian.
BF: Good morning.
PS: A lot of these things this week that we found out, incredibly surprising that there’s so much of this going on. My biggest surprise yesterday was that one key fits all tractors, which I didn’t realise. But the tractors are going to Iraq. People are really targeting rural farms.
BF: That is the thing. They are targets. Obviously they’re often in isolated areas, a long way from police resources, and from the public. And yes, they are targeted, and reports show that people often watch farms, and perhaps if someone goes for their lunch break they then take that opportunity to go along, perhaps take the tractor, or take some diesel, all these sorts of things. They could be irrigating crops out in the field, and suddenly their irrigation pipes are actually being stolen, because of the price, the value of the metal in those pipes.
PS: And it’s very difficult for the police to police these large areas, and very difficult I suppose if you own a large farm, to keep an eye on everything that’s going on, keep all the gates closed, keep all the locks locked.
BF: That’s right. I know you’ve been talking to the Rural Community Action Team this week, which is the group of police officers who are there dealing with rural crime. We’re lucky to have them in Cambridgeshire. A lot of counties don’t have that resource there. And we work closely with them, and also it is very very important that farmers do feed in information. When diesel is stolen, when all things are stolen, the police need to know, so they can target their resources properly, and try and catch these criminals who are out there. Very much organised crime involved in this, as you’ve been finding out this week.
PS: What could farmers do? Could they do more to look after their own kit?
BF: Well I think they do do a lot. There is more .. some that could be done, and we have now schemes in place that they can register their tractors, they can put trackers on their tractors, and this is a scheme that’s actually extending overseas, so that when these tractors do leave the ports, even if they’re stopped in another country, hopefully there will be a database in place to enable that tractor to be traced back to the farm where it came from in the first place. They do do a lot already though, as you’ve heard from some of the reports already this week. And they are very very active in the Countryside Watch scheme that’s running in Cambridgeshire. And that is acting as the eyes and ears of the police. And that’s brought some really good results. Only last week we had a trailer of grain that was stolen, of wheat that was stolen.
PS: A trailer of grain?
BF: That’s right.
PS: What’s anybody going to do with that?
BF: Well the trailer was stolen. It had about eight or nine tons of feed wheat on it. But because an alert went out by ourselves and Countryside Watch within a few hours that trailer was found, although sadly eight tons of wheat had actually gone from it. So that just shows the sort of things that the thieves are stealing.
PS: They’ll nick ‘owt.
BF: They will. That’s right. And on a similar, well a smaller scale than that I was talking to a smallholder who had one pig stolen. He was just about to go off. he was just ready to go off to the abbatoir, the night before, and that was taken. So there’s all sorts of things happening out there in the countryside.
PS: Hanging in somebody’s pantry somewhere I should think.
PS: It’s going to get more difficult though, isn’t it, for farmers. We’ve heard about police cuts. We’ve heard there’s going to be less police and with less staff. They’re going to have to do more and more and more, and they are a target aren’t they? A soft target.
BF: It obviously is a big concern when you hear some of the headlines that we’ve been hearing this week. And what we don’t want to see is the rural community suffering disproportionately from the rest of Cambridgeshire. We need to make sure that the message is out there, that rural crime is a serious problem, and it does need the resources to tackle it. But obviously that is a concern about what’s going to happen with the cuts that are coming forward.
PS: Brian, thank you for coming in this morning. I appreciate that. Brian Finnerty from the NFU talking about rural crime affecting farmers in Cambridgeshire. All this week we’ve brought you many exclusive reports, and if you are a farmer and you are affected you can always get in touch with the show and tell us how. It’s 81333 on text. Start your message with the word PETE, 315444 on the phone.