Geese - countryside’s new crime fighters

14th July 2009.'The Good Life Feature, Linda and Gawen Dickinson.'Copy picture of lifestock geese.'PICTURE GERARD BINKS

14th July 2009.'The Good Life Feature, Linda and Gawen Dickinson.'Copy picture of lifestock geese.'PICTURE GERARD BINKS

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Farming folk in Yorkshire are fighting crime using some unusual methods, according to research from the National Farmers Union (NFU).

A new survey has revealed that agricultural crime in Yorkshire and the North East has cost £7.8m in the past year, with quad bikes, tools, oil and diesel topping the wish lists of thieves.

But farming families in Yorkshire are “fighting back”, says the insurer, taking matters into their own hands using some “improvised” techniques.

Among the more unique measures put in place by farmers to keep their property safe is buying geese to alert them to intruders, storing quads behind a Fresian bull or keeping aggressive animals like llamas in with the sheep.

“It’s all about taking small steps to make life much harder for rural criminals,” said NFU Mutual agent Martin Wiles.

“You don’t have to break the bank with expensive high tech security measures.”

The Rural Crime Survey found that agricultural crime in the UK in 2011 has cost the UK an estimated £52.7m, a figure up six per cent on the previous year.

Yet while the cost figures may be quite high, rural crime in the district is very low.

Since April this year, just 65 crimes were committed in the Nidderdale district. That broke down to 19 in Lower Nidderdale, 29 in the Nidd Valley and 17 in Pateley Bridge.

“Crime levels are going down, which is the way we want it,” said Sgt Christine Turner, Safer Neighbourhood Sergeant for Ripon and Pateley Bridge.

“We have Operation Tornado, clamping down on metal thefts, we are working with farmers getting Farm Watch up and running. It’s a beautiful area and we want to keep it that way.”

Occurrences of lead thefts are actually decreasing, said Sgt Turner, but one thing which was becoming more prevalent was the theft of diesel and oil.

“Don’t leave your keys in your car. Don’t leave property on display,” she said. “As the cost of fuel goes up so does the incidents of thefts and it’s very hard to secure.”

Some of the most common crimes in the rural areas are thefts from outbuildings, farm and garden equipment and metal thefts, in particular catalytic converters.

PC Bill Hickson, of Pateley Bridge Police, said that 4x4s and commercial vehicles are being targeted as they have a larger clearance underneath.

“Small quantities of precious metals such as platinum are used in ‘cats’ and it is these which make them valuable and attractive to thieves,” he said.

“In June two converter thefts were reported from the lower dale; both involved Ford Rangers. Earlier in the year, in the Ripon area, there was a spate of thefts from Mercedes Sprinter vans.

“The best way to combat rural crime is to be vigilant. Crime is so rare in Nidderdale, but if you see anything unusual, report it.”

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: “The geography of our county and the remote location of many communities makes it all the more important to take crime prevention measures. Even the most basic will help deter opportunist thieves.

“Basics such as locking your machinery away when not in use and not leaving valuables on view doesn’t cost anything, but could help prevent you becoming a victim of crime.”

To sign up to the Farm Watch scheme, which alerts residents to ongoing crimes, visit www.northyorkshire.police.uk/farmwatch.