‘Rural residents fear falling victim to crime’

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Rural residents are living in fear of falling victim to criminals who are becoming ever more sophisticated in targeting countryside homes and businesses.

That’s according to the Ulster Farmers’ Union, whose deputy president, Ivor Ferguson, said: “Farming families often feel they represent rich pickings for criminals.

“Thieves are now very selective about the items they take and will not think twice about targeting the same farm again, sometimes within days.”

Mr Ferguson said that while the UFU accepted farmers needed to protect themselves and their property, the nature and layout of farms meant there was only so much they could afford to do.

Acknowledging a statistical fall in the number of rural crimes reported, he said the numbers did not, however, reflect the “true feeling” on the ground and police could not use a decrease in reported incidences to paint an over-optimistic picture.

There was no room, he said, for complacency.

“Some under-reporting reflects a lack of farmer faith in the judicial system,” he added. “We need a joined-up approach; crime must be reported to the PSNI and it is vitally important these are coded appropriately.

“Farming families then need to see the justice system working to deliver prosecutions and proper penalties.”

Like others, he said, the UFU was disappointed by reports that the PSNI Rural Crime Unit promised in 2013 had failed to get off the ground and while the union acknowledged and appreciated the efforts of “many excellent police officers” on the ground, they could only be effective if they were fully supported by “a clear strategy, good training and a judiciary that deters criminals from committing the crime”.