Police forces are 'failing' to recognise the detrimental effects of rural crime as more than a third lack a dedicated strategy to tackle the growing issue.
Incidents such as fly-tipping, machine or livestock theft, hare coursing and vandalism of farm infrastructure is estimated to cost the economy around £44.5m a year.
But nearly two-fifths (39%) of police forces do not have a rural crime team, and only 10 forces (28%) deliver rural crime training for new recruits.
This is according to new analysis by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which also revealed that more than one in four (27%) do not have a police officer of inspector rank or above leading rural crime.
Furthermore, only around half (53%) of rural police forces across England and Wales have dedicated rural crime prevention tools, such as 4x4s, trail bikes, night vision equipment or drones.
Crime has a 'moderate to great' impact
The analysis builds on previously published figures which show the average cost of a rural crime incident is £4,800, with each fly-tipping occurrence costing more than £1,000 to clear up.
Half of rural business owners state that crime has a “moderate” to “great” impact on their lives and 60% are “fairly” or “very” worried about becoming a victim of crime.
CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said the fact that a third of rural police forces do not have a dedicated strategy or team to deal with rural crime is 'simply astounding'.
“Having to deal with replacing lost machinery, repairing a vandalised barn, or clearing up and bearing the cost of someone else’s fly-tipped mess, just adds unnecessary stress, eats away at meagre profits and takes up valuable time.
“All of that is before we deal with the emotional fall-out of becoming a victim of crime, which many will unfortunately know can have long-lasting repercussions on wellbeing and feeling safe in your own home.
Mr Breitmeyer added: “Clearly, budgetary constraints are an issue, and we’d like to see more forces being given the tools to combat rural crime seriously, but many have failed to match tough words and pledges to even the simplest of tangible actions.
“Much more needs to be done to ensure rural crime is taken with the seriousness that it should be,” he said.
Five recommendations to combat rural crime
The CLA is calling for rural police forces across England and Wales to implement its five recommendations to ensure they are ready to combat rural crime.
• Every rural police force should have a dedicated rural crime team, with an identified point of contact for rural communities.
• Every force must have a rural crime strategy in place by May 2021 that has been created in consultation with local people. This should include seeking to make use of rural volunteers, local forums and regular communications with communities to ensure strong links between police forces and local people.
• All police forces must undertake an audit of the equipment required to combat crimes in their locality and set out a plan to acquire equipment which is lacking.
• Mandatory rural crime training for all new recruits.
• As part of their police and crime plan incoming Police and Crime Commissioners must identify their ambitions for rural areas.