County Durham’s FarmWatcherUK, the UK’s number one rural crime alert network, has this week launched a national rural crime website aimed at raising awareness of rural crime across the UK.
Based in Bishop Auckland, FarmWatcherUK was founded in 2014 by farmer’s daughter Andrea Stephenson after her family suffered a quad bike theft. FarmWatcherUK now works alongside regional and national police intelligence officers and members of the public to amplify live theft alerts in all areas of rural crime.
The online network was launched to enable those who live and work in rural areas to raise awareness of rural crime with a mission to reverse the spiralling trend of rural crime across the UK and to reduce the crippling impact on the UK farming industry.
The national scheme has grown exponentially to a network of over 100,000 followers with an average monthly social media reach of 1.5 million views.
Rural crime costs the UK on average £50m each year and despite an overall fall in rural theft during lockdown, the downside was that when the criminals struck, they struck harder, using new tactics to overcome security.
Andrea Stephenson, director and founder, said “Rural crime can take many forms such as livestock and machinery theft, poaching, fly-tipping, and every one of these is debilitating to the landowner. Not only does rural crime have a devastating effect on the day to day running of the farm, but the constant threat of theft also has a huge impact on the mental health of the farming families, who constantly feel they are being watched and may become the next target. We all know the pressures the police forces are under and FarmWatcherUK helps to amplify the rural crime alerts, leaving the police to get on with their day job. The interactive website has been launched to make users aware of the threats in their area while amplifying alerts on behalf of the police forces.”
Richard Holden, MP for North West Durham said “I first met with Andrea and the team from FarmWatcherUK in May 2020 on a call at the height of the lockdown. I was dismayed to hear of many of the incidents that their network has identified but applaud their efforts to shine a light upon them. After we met I tried to help them boost FarmWatcher’s profile amongst farmers locally and shared information about their work with other police forces across the North of England from Cumbria to Yorkshire.
Problems like poaching, agricultural vehicle theft and fly-tipping are a particular problem for constituents in Weardale where they were established, within my constituency. I think their effort to share ideas and intelligence further around the country is vital, because there is a clearly a national need for it as rural crime grows as a concern.”
Superintendent Andy Huddleston, National Police lead for the theft of plant and agricultural machinery and the Northumbria Police lead for Rural Crime said
“I am fully supportive of the role FarmWatcherUK has in bringing our rural communities together in helping make where we live and work safer and crime free. I believe it is an excellent platform from which the rural community, not just farmers, can share both information concerning rural crime but also good practice. Social media is massively powerful and is very much at the forefront of modern prevention and detection of crime particularly in rural areas.”
If you are interested in the scheme or in seeing what rural crimes are happening near you visit the website at www.farmwatcher.co.uk