In 2006, there were fewer than 400 Farmwatch schemes in Cumbria at a time when thefts from rural premises were increasing. Members were experiencing a victimisation rate of 115.4 crimes per 1,000 premises against a rate of 80.4 per 1,000 head of population.
In that year, Cumbria Police acquired 2,000 SmartWater kits for distribution to farmers in a bid to encourage wider membership of Farmwatch, to improve security measures at vulnerable locations, and to act as a deterrent to the criminal fraternity.
By the end of 2008, membership was approaching 1,000, and the victimisation rate against members was down to 71.4 crimes per 1,000 premises, but it remained higher than the rate of crimes per 1,000 head of population (64 per 1,000).
Members acknowledged the support and value of the Farmwatch scheme but remained concerned by the volume of unwanted visitors to their land – criminals on reconnaissance exercises “looking for scrap metal”.
Following consultation with members, police staff and legal advisers, the ‘Trespass Scheme’ was born.
Members of Farmwatch sign a consent form allowing Cumbria Constabulary to add their premises to a list which is served on criminals who have been identified from intelligence as preying on the farming community.
The list is accompanied by a letter from Cumbria Neighbourhood Watch Association warning them that if they are caught on land identified on the list, legal action will be taken. The letter also advises the recipient that all participants in these schemes have key machinery items marked with SmartWater.
The first letters were served in late 2008 and early 2009. By the end of 2010, 25 individuals had received ‘Trespass’ letters.
Research conducted in early 2011 revealed victimisation rates in 2010 of:
Against the general population – 54.5 per 1,000
Against the known farming community - 37.9 per 1,000 premises
Against Farmwatch members - 30.2 per 1,000 premises
Against Trespass scheme members - 16.9 per 1,000 premises
The research also identified that whilst not all recipients of the Trespass letters took heed of advice to avoid premises on the ‘Trespass’ list, many did, thereby (on the face of it) contributing to the lower victimisation rate amongst Trespass scheme members.
Whilst overall crime has decreased between 2006 and 2010, the reduction has been significantly higher amongst Farmwatch members, with participants in the Trespass scheme gaining the greatest advantage.
There now appears to be a distinct advantage to being a member of Farmwatch, with non members being at greater risk of victimisation.