A “no cold callers” scheme has been launched to combat rural crime and protect farmers in the South West.
It will help protect farmers from would-be criminals who “cold call” at farms to stake out whether there is something worth stealing.
Numerous groups have joined forces to launch the campaign, including Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon’s Trading Standards Service and rural insurer NFU Mutual.
The annual rural crime report revealed that the theft of agricultural vehicles cost the UK £7.4 million in 2018, with quad/ATV thefts costing £2.6 million; an increase on the previous year.
As part of the scheme, farmers are being offered a striking sign to display at the entrances to their farms warning cold callers and rogue traders to stay away and bearing the slogan, “We won’t buy from you, we won’t sell to you”.
PC Martin Beck of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “A notable cause for fear among rural communities is the threat of itinerant criminals who tour the countryside on the lookout for opportunities to steal.Such criminals can be very insistent and intimidating, and may be scoping out the layout of the farm trying to spot items worth stealing. Refusal to engage with the cold caller can lead to threats of violence towards the landowner. Fear of crimes like this can exacerbate feeling of isolation among farmers.”
In addition to being offered crime prevention advice and support by police officers, farmers are also invited to become part of the police’s community messaging and Farm Watch initiatives.
PC Beck added: “Once farmers have signed up to the scheme and display the signs, if an unwanted caller attends the farm, the farmer should only engage with them to ask them to leave, and inform them that they do not buy or sell. Should intimidation or threats be made, the police can record the incident and escalate the Anti-Social Behaviour process.
‘This gives the police an opportunity to engage with the offender to encourage them to stop this behaviour and if they do not, we can apply to the Court for a Criminal Behaviour Order.
‘We want rural communities to understand that we take this issue very seriously and that with their support in reporting
incidents, we can reduce this type of crime.”