ICSA-backed survey reveals the real cost of rural crime

Tipperary Star reporter

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ICSA-backed survey reveals the real cost of rural crime

ICSA president Patrick Kent

The second of three reports into rural crime has revealed that there were 1,512 incidents of agricultural crime in the study period between January 1, 2014 and May 31, 2016.

The report was commissioned by the ICSA and carried out by Dr Louise Moore Walsh and Louise Walsh of Waterford Institute of Technology.

The incidents occurred under the headings of vandalism / criminal damage / trespass (771); theft (652); criminal assault (76), and fraud (73).

“The financial costs of agricultural crime is an unacceptable burden and one that cannot be written off as part and parcel of life in rural Ireland,” said ICSA president Patrick Kent.

“We now have proof that agricultural crime is hitting farmers’ pockets at a time when most are struggling to make ends meet at all. Theft, vandalism and fly-tipping all have serious cost implications for farmers, as do increased insurance premiums when farmers have to make a claim. The report is hugely important as determining the costs of agricultural crime provides the justification for spending scarce resources on tackling the issue,” he said.

The results of the survey indicate for the first time the real costs of agricultural crime to the farm business. The report also found that many farmers were reluctant to report thefts due to the risk of rising insurance premiums. It found that on average farmers were willing to take a financial hit of €1,771.00 rather than report the incident.

The survey was carried by online with 861 respondents, with 351 experiencing 652 incidents of theft. The approximate total value of assets stolen in the incidents of theft was €963,375. The average value of assets recorded as stolen in an incident of theft was €1,818. Respondents recorded 14 of these incidents as robbery. The average value of farm related assets stolen in an incident of robbery was €4,375.

The farm assets were divided into machinery and equipment / vehicles, which account for almost half the theft incidents and the highest average value of asset(s) stolen; tools, chemicals, materials and miscellaneous personal property, and livestock / feed / products.

Incidents of theft of vehicles, including vehicle parts, accounted for one in ten theft incidents and was the type of theft incident with the highest average value of assets stolen at €5,744. By comparison incidents of theft of fuels and oils was the most prevalent type of theft incident (124 incidents) but was the second lowest average value of asset(s) stolen in a theft incident at €579. Theft of fuels and oils mainly comprised theft of agricultural diesel, which was the specific asset with the most incidents of theft recorded (108 incidents). The average value of agricultural diesel stolen in an incident of theft was €560.

Some 814 respondents recorded whether they experienced vandalism / criminal damage / trespass (VCDT), with 316 respondents experiencing 711 incidents. The approximate total value of costs arising from the incidents of VCDT was €236,100. The average value of cost recorded as arising from an incident of VCDT was €359.

The types of VCDT incidents recorded were trespass, destruction or injury to personal property (including crops), and destruction or injury to land.

A total of 50 respondents recorded experiencing 73 incidents of fraud, including being sold a stolen farm good(s), being sold a counterfeit farm good(s), and being provided with a forged farm related document(s). The total costs arising from the fraud incidents was €88,805.

When it came to assault, 781 respondents recorded whether the farmer, farmer’s family and / or farm employee(s) experienced criminal assault occurring on the farm or during farming related activities. Some 43 recorded 76 incidents of criminal assault either by coercion, physical assault or threat.

As a consequence of crime, 490 respondents indicated a length of time spent dealing with its aftermath, with 17 saying that dealing with the aftermath of agricultural crime was either ongoing or they were now fearful of crime, and, as a consequence, always thinking about it or conscious of crime.

The report's authors note that the extent, nature and cost of agricultural crime in Ireland, rather than rural crime, had never been the subject of a specific crime survey.

However, the results also indicated some farmers may have difficulty identifying and quantifying various agricultural crime costs consequently the financial costs of agricultural crime is likely to be underestimated and under-reported.

Two thirds of respondents experienced incident(s) of agricultural crime, and the approximate total of all the financial costs of agricultural crime recorded by these respondents was €2,445,105 or an average of €4,328 per respondent.

However, the one third of respondents who did not experience an incident(s) of agricultural crime still incurred a total cost of €431,921, or an average cost of €1,459 per respondent, on insurance and crime prevention measures to minimise exposure to financial loss if agricultural crime were to occur.

Commenting on the survey findings, ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock said: “As well as the financial cost, there is also the unseen cost of fear and stress caused when your home or farm has been targeted by criminals. We are witnessing the whole fabric of rural society being decimated with farmers feeling more and more isolated and side-lined. Nobody should have to live in a state of constant fear and anxiety.