Amanda Cornwell, Scrutton Bland insurance executive with a specialism in agriculture, looks at crime in the rural community.
Across the UK, farmers are turning their homes and business into fortresses in order to try and protect themselves against thieves.
Rural crime has historically been a hot topic. Farms are often seen as soft targets with low levels of security, and items such as expensive vehicles, machinery, scrap metal and high quality tools vulnerable to theft from both criminal gangs and opportunists. Combine that with a rural police force rarely able to provide a rapid response due to many factors such as geography, and it is no wonder that many farming and rural communities feel isolated.
The overall cost of UK rural crime according to recent statistics is around £40 million per year. Within these statistics, the items that are stolen follow trends with quad bikes, power tools and tractors remaining firm favourites. This year, Land Rover Defenders have been added to thieves’ shopping lists following their production being terminated in 2016.
Most weeks there are press reports of large numbers of lambs and sheep being stolen for illegal slaughter. Besides theft, there are also concerns from livestock farmers for their own safety and that of their staff from ‘animal activists’ and campaigners. It can be very intimidating when groups of people trespass on to your property with their faces covered, intent on creating a disturbance so as to spread their own views.
All of these criminal acts have to be paid for, and it usually results in farmers having to make claims on their insurance policies to cover their losses. This in turn can lead to higher premiums, increased excesses or refusal to provide cover for re-occurring losses.
What can be done?
Farmers can take precautions to protect assets which can also lead to reductions in insurance premiums. Each farming business is unique and by working with an independent and knowledgeable insurance broker who understands your needs, together with an agricultural security specialist, it is possible to put measures in place which will deter the thieves and intruders.
Physical assets such as vehicles and equipment can all be tagged with trackers and this has been known and widely practised for a long time. At Scrutton Bland we work with a company who use a slightly different system, resulting in an outstanding asset recovery rate of over 90%. There are no ongoing monthly fees for each individual tracker fitted and the set-up is not prohibitively expensive. In fact the savings on insurance premiums may even cover the cost of the equipment.
Trackers can also be fitted to livestock, and insurers can also offer bolus (a device placed within the animal) to measure the temperature of animals for health and welfare monitoring too. Geo-fencing can be set up so that animals learn where they can and cannot go, and this system also enables the famer to pinpoint the location of their animals. The same fencing can also be used to keep people out and send an alert when unwanted visitors trespass onto farmland.
Temperature sensors are also effective when used within buildings where there may be an increased fire risk, and we have seen level sensors combined with heat sensors to monitor feed temperatures for beef calves.
Don’t put yourself at risk
Personal safety is paramount. If you are aware of anything suspicious on your farm or a neighbour’s premises then the best thing to do is to contact the police. If you spot any suspicious vehicles then call the non-emergency number 101 to report them. Revenge attacks do happen and it is best to try and distance yourself from risk where possible.
Scrutton Bland have almost a hundred years of experience in working with clients throughout the agricultural sector. Our independent teams of accountants, financial planners, tax advisers and insurance brokers are on hand to assist you at every step of the way.