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Crime and the Farming Community: The Scottish Farm Crime Survey, 1998 - Research Findings

DescriptionThe aim of the research was to investigate the type and extent of crime being committed on Scottish farms, and to assess the vulnerability of farms to crime.
ISBN
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateApril 23, 1999
Agricultural Policy Co-ordination and Rural Development Research Findings No 1
1999
Crime and the Farming Community: The Scottish Farm Crime Survey, 1998

George Street Research

ISBN 0-7480-8218-2Publisher The Scottish Office
This research is the first national survey of farm crime in Scotland. The aim of the research was to investigate the type and extent of crime being committed on Scottish farms, and to assess the vulnerability of farms to crime. The research also investigated the impact of crime on farm businesses, and explored farmers' perceptions of the effectiveness of Police intervention and farm crime prevention initiatives.
Key Findings
  • It is important to recognise that the majority of farmers in Scotland enjoy a crime free working environment. Nevertheless problems do exist, and a significant minority are affected by farm crime. A large proportion of farm crime was made up of vandalism, petty theft and fly tipping, and in some areas these presented continuous problems for farmers. One in three farmers (32%) surveyed had been affected by on-farm incidents.
  • Only 18% of farmers who were victims of crime reported financial losses as a result of crime, but the average cost of these incidents was £1,400 and livestock theft caused the greatest financial loss to farmers.
  • Farmers recognised the need for increased vigilance on farms: 76% of farmers felt that they were more security conscious than five years ago, and they also felt that traditional crime prevention measures such as securing farm buildings and farm dogs were more effective than sophisticated and costly security systems. Observant farming and non-farming neighbours were also viewed as a security asset.
  • Farmers were positive about the 'Farm Watch' scheme and the majority of farmers were satisfied with the Police response to crimes.
  • The lowest levels of crime were experienced by farmers living in remote locations, and the north of Scotland. Small farms in Fife, Tayside and Strathclyde Police force areas were most at risk from crime.
The Survey
Recent Scottish Office research on rural crime highlighted the need for more information about farm crime. This research was commissioned to investigate:
  • the type and extent of farm crime
  • factors which affect the vulnerability of farms to crime
  • farm crime prevention measures.
The data suggest that farm crime is under-reported, and therefore the research is particularly important as the findings reflect the grass roots experience of farm crime, information which does not emerge from rural crime figures.
The Type and Extent of Farm Crime
One in three farmers (32%) reported instances of crime on their farm over the past five years, and crime was experienced across all farm types, and in all regions of Scotland.
Farmers reported commercial crime ranging from theft of machinery, gates, all-terrain-vehicles, chainsaws, fencing and tools, to fire-raising, fuel theft and livestock rustling. Housebreaking, and petty theft such as the theft of a tractor radio were common, and technological innovation made some farm offices targets for theft, notably of computers. Vandalism and fly tipping were recurrent problems for many respondents, and the data suggests these 'minor', 'nuisance', crimes were rarely reported to the Police.
Farmers in the Strathclyde, Tayside, Central and Fife Police force areas reported were more likely to report a farm crime (between 41% and 47% compared with an average for the whole of Scotland of 32%), and the farmers most at risk from crime were small farms in Fife, Tayside and Strathclyde. Farmers located in peri-urban areas, or near main roads were particularly vulnerable to crime in all areas, and urban-fringe farmers were often repeat victims. The lowest levels of crime were experienced by farmers living in remote locations, or in scattered communities.
Reporting Farm Crime and the Police Response
Overall, just under half of all incidents of farm crime recorded in this survey were reported to the Police, and this was particularly the case for repeat victims. Failure to report a crime to the Police was due to the farmers' perception that the crime was 'trivial' or the sort of crime, for example fly tipping, that the police would not be able to resolve.
The farmers surveyed suggested that those responsible for petty farm crime were often 'young people' and 'local children'. Farmers recognised the difficulty facing police in taking action against such suspected perpetrators. Where farmers had reported crime to the Police, the majority considered that the Police maintained adequate contact throughout the investigation, and were satisfied with the overall Police response.
Farm Crime Prevention
Farmers asserted that common-sense precautions provided the most effective crime prevention . Many had taken active steps to protect their property, and 76% of farmers felt that they were more security conscious in 1998 than they were five years ago. Securing farm buildings, security lighting and traditional farm dogs were favoured over high technology deterrents such as sonic tracking systems or electronic gates. Vehicle immobilises were thought to be particularly effective, although cost was viewed as a prohibitive factor in implementing such measures.
Two thirds of farmers considered Farm Watch to be an effective crime deterrent, and observant farming and non-farming neighbours were also viewed as a security asset.
The Impact of Farm Crime
The cost of farm crime varied considerably between incidents. Analysis of the monetary value of property damaged or stolen showed a mean figure of just under £1,400 for each reported incident of crime. In 10% of cases, however, the actual cost of property damage was cited as zero: for example vandalism to a drystone wall may have no economic cost, but does have labour implications for the farmer. Livestock rustling was highest cost crime per incident to farmers. Housebreaking, although limited in terms of the overall number of incidents, implied a high cost to the farmers, averaging approximately £6000 per incident.
Only 18% of farmers reported financial losses as a result of crime. The 'petty' or 'nuisance' nature of much of farm crime, meant that few incidents resulted in insurance claims by farmers.
A certain amount of farm crime appeared to be an unwelcome, but inevitable, part of working in the agriculture industry in Scotland, and farmers appeared to be adopting a pragmatic approach to dealing with such incidents. The majority of farmers did not think farm crime was a major problem for the industry but nevertheless implemented common-sense, and workable crime prevention measures.
About the Survey
The survey was conducted by George Street Research Ltd. In March 1998, a representative sample of 1022 farmers were interviewed by telephone about their experience of farm crime since 1993, and their perceptions about the changing nature of crime in landward communities.
'Crime and The Farming Community: The Scottish Farm Crime Survey 1998', the research report which is summarised in this Research Findings, is available priced £10.00. Cheques should be made payable to The Stationery Office and addressed to:
The Stationery Office Bookshop,
71 Lothian Road,
Edinburgh EH3 9AZ
Telephone: 0131-228 4181, or Fax: 0131-622 7017
This report can also be ordered online from: www.thestationeryoffice.co.uk
Further copies of these Research Findings can be obtained from:
The Scottish Office Central Research Unit
2J
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ
Telephone: 0131-244 7560
or from the publications section of The Scottish Office Website: www.scotland.gov.uk