Rural crime

Certain types of crime are much more common in rural areas and some crimes, such as agricultural machinery and livestock theft, are uniquely rural.

Preventing and detecting crime can be harder in rural areas. This is due to there often being fewer witnesses to rural crimes and greater opportunities for criminals to target isolated properties and businesses. The impact of these crimes can also be greater, with people feeling more vulnerable due to their remote location. 

Always report any suspicious incidents to 101, or call 999 if a crime is in progress.

Heritage crime

Heritage crime is defined as 'any offence which harms the value of England's heritage assets and their settings to this and future generations'.

Many landowners have ancient monuments and archaeological sites in or near their property. Theft or criminal damage involving a monument or archaeological site is a crime and should be reported to the police as soon as possible.

It’s a criminal offence to remove any item of property from above or below the ground. For further information please visit the National Council for Metal Detecting .

Equipment and tool security

Equipment and tool security can be a particular issue for rural businesses and farms. 

To keep your belongings safe: 

  • lock equipment away in a secure building or part of a building when not in use
  • invest in a secure storage toolbox
  • install a burglar alarm on buildings where equipment is kept
  • always lock vehicles when left outside and keep the keys in your possession
  • keep expensive items and vehicles out of sight when not in use
  • consider using hitch locks, wheel clamps or ground anchors
  • mark your tools and equipment and register them for free with Immobilise 

For further information on securing your belongings and how to mark your equipment, visit our burglary advice page. 

Estate and building security

A good standard of building security is very important in rural areas, especially for outbuildings which may not be visited for weeks at a time.

Farmhouses and other rural properties are the same as any other home, so general home security advice still applies. However, because of the remote location, additional security measures may be beneficial.

To protect your rural home or business: 

  • keep the boundaries of your land and property well-maintained and secure
  • keep all doors and windows shut and locked when not in use
  • install a visible burglar alarm
  • make sure windows and door frames are secure and in good repair
  • fit strong locks to sheds, garages and outbuildings 
  • fit good quality window locks
  • consider security bars and grilles for vulnerable windows and openings
  • make sure gates cannot be lifted off or have their fixing bolts removed
  • check security equipment regularly to ensure it works properly
  • use locking posts or temporary obstructions to control wide access points to yards 

For additional security you could also: 

  • install automatic security lights that come on at dusk and turn off at dawn
  • install CCTV cameras to watch over the most vulnerable areas of the property
  • install a monitored intruder alarm system
  • install an entry control system infrared, intercom or keypad
  • establish a single gated entrance and exit, removing all private access points that are not in use 

For information and general advice on protecting your property visit our burglary advice page. 

Illegal activity

All incidents of illegal activity should be reported to the appropriate authority as soon as possible. If you are able to, make a note of any vehicle details and a description of the people involved.

Always consider your own personal safety first before approaching individuals. 

Illegal occupation

As a landowner it’s your responsibility to protect your land from unauthorised occupation. Making sure your premises and boundaries are secure will greatly reduce the risk of unauthorised occupation. 

To help protect your land you should: 

  • look closely at the perimeter to ensure it is as secure as possible
  • consider using large tree trunks, rocks, ditching and earth mounds around boundaries to prevent access
  • restrict vehicle access by digging deep ditches
  • keep unused land maintained and free from litter and other waste 

If your land does become illegally occupied, you can take proceedings to the county court to obtain a court order for the eviction of illegal occupants. Occupants who fail to comply with this notice by leaving the land as soon as reasonably possible are committing an offence.

Illegal off-roading

Illegal off-roading can cause damage to the environment and disturbs local wildlife. The activity is dangerous, an annoyance to rural communities and has a potential financial impact on rural businesses.

Report all incidents of illegal off-roading to the police, including vehicle details if possible. 

Fly tipping

Fly-tipping is deliberate law-breaking by people who do not manage, transport and dispose of waste correctly. These crimes cause serious damage to the environment and cost businesses, landowners and taxpayers millions every year.

Fly-tipping is not a police matter, you should report all incidents to your local authority as soon as possible. 

For more information visit the Environment Agency website

Diesel theft

Diesel theft is a problem for many farms and rural properties. Fuel tanks stored in rural and isolated locations are very attractive to thieves looking for an easy target. 

Keep tanks stored close to the property where you can see them. If this isn’t possible, you should consider installing CCTV to watch over isolated tanks and restrict access with walls, fences and hedges. Security lighting such as ‘Dusk till Dawn’ or motion detection lighting can also be an effective deterrent to thieves.  

Remember to check the oil level in your tank regularly. Look for any spilt fuel, marks on the locks or anything else suspicious.

Wildlife and animal crime

In the UK, legislation gives protection to wildlife and important habitats and sites.

Crimes against protected species include killing or taking them from the wild, collecting their eggs or skins, trading in them and taxidermy offences. Destroying nests and breeding sites, bat roosts and other protected habitats can also be an offence.

Some species such as badgers and deer are protected, making it an offence to cause them unnecessary suffering. 

Poaching, hunting and fishing are illegal under the following circumstances: 

  • the game or fish is not in season
  • the poacher does not possess a licence
  • the hunter used an illegal weapon for that animal
  • the animal or plant is on restricted land
  • the right to hunt this animal is claimed by somebody
  • the means used are illegal, such as baiting
  • the animal or fish is protected by law or has been listed as an endangered animal 

Hunting with a dog and hare coursing were both made illegal under The Hunting Act 2004. Most hunts comply with the law but if you become aware of hunts that pursue live animals you should report this as soon as possible.

Livestock theft

You should check your livestock and the security of boundary fencing regularly. If they are making more noise than usual this could mean something has disturbed them. 

Make regular checks of the fields where animals are kept to check that fences haven’t been breached and that no one else is in the field with them. Use ear tags, horn brands, freeze marking or tattooing to make your animals more easily identifiable. 

Always report any suspicious activity involving livestock to the police.

Report it

Contact the police on 101 if you think an offence has been or is about to be committed. 

If you believe an animal has been or is being mistreated, call the RSPCA.

Further advice and support

Visit Natural England or your local Wildlife Trust for more information. 

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