THURSDAY is farm theft day in North Wales while Saturday is when badger baiters are busiest.
Those are some of the results of the intelligence-led policing that’s helping North Wales Police’s Rural Crime Unit turn the tide against countryside criminals.
They have used computer-stored information to track crime patterns and it showed that farm thefts and rustling are five times more likely to happen on a Thursday than on a Tuesday.
Sergeant Rob Taylor, who heads the Unit which has officers across North Wales, said: “The data has shown that Thursday is when the highest number of farm crimes take place while Saturday is when wildlife crimes take place because that’s when people go out into the countryside.
“We use information like this to make people conscious of the danger of not locking up properly when going off to market and in just generally being more aware.
“We make use of data to be more intelligent and proactive in the way we tackle rural crime but it is just part of what we do and the way in which we work with partners like Natural Resources Wales, the farming unions, the RSPB and RSPCA.”
It has led to North Wales being seen as setting a benchmark for the UK in fighting rural crime so that other police forces across the UK have been looking at the work of the dedicated Rural Crime Unit.
It was introduced last year North Wales Police at the request of
Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick and he said: “I have visited livestock markets and met farmers and members of the rural communities and without exception they pointed to how much crime was taking place in the countryside.
“This was costing millions of pounds and the rural economy is tremendously important in Wales and deserves effective policing and when I proposed that we should dedicate more resources to combating rural crime Chief Constable was very positive and encouraging.
"Since then the Rural Crime Team has made an excellent start and they are setting a benchmark for the rest of the UK and their work is attracting a great deal of interest from other forces.”
While elsewhere in the UK offences such as livestock rustling, thefts of farm machinery, equipment and supplies, badger baiting and shooting rare birds have been on the increase, in North Wales they have been falling.
The Rural Crime Team began recording the number of rural incidents on a daily basis and after peaking in October at 116, they have been dropping steadily with 72 in January, a fall of nearly 40 per cent, a trend that has continued.
It has seen the number of crimes fall to just 37 in July, the most recent month for which figures are available, and that is down almost 70 per cent.
Farm thefts have gone from an Octber high of 65 to just 28 in July while wildlife crimes also fell dramatically, from 32 to just five.
That contrasts with the statement by rural insurer NFU Mutual that livestock theft across the UK was up 25 per cent last year - the most recent year for which figures are available – while the theft of chemicals like fertilisers and pesticides, which can be taken in large volumes and exported easily, was also being seen more often.
Tractor theft is also big business in the UK, though not in North Wales where there have been only two in the past 12 months, with over £30 million worth stolen in the last four years at a rate of six a day while the cost of crime to the rural economy totalled £44.5m in 2013 – up 5.2 per cent on 2012 figures.
In North Wales computer analysis of recorded crime has been used with the team using a computer programme that searches crime report logs using keywords including bat, bird and badger - and, for rural crime, words including farm, sheep and diesel.
Sgt Taylor said: “Since its formation the team has made a significant contribution to the amount of incidents reported in relation to farm crime. However our detailed analysis over the past year has clearly shown that Thursday is the day when most crimes will occur on farms.
"In fact, between May and July there were five times as many instances on a Thursday than a Tuesday.
“We use intelligence-led policing and make use of data which we analyse so that we put resources where they’re needed and when they’re needed.”
Incidents of criminals targeting farms in North Wales have fallen dramatically since the formation of Sgt Taylor's team - bucking an apparent increase in some types of crime in the countryside nationwide.
The Home Office recently announced that it was earmarking nearly £40,000 to establish the National Rural Crime Network to find ways to reduce rural crime.
Policing Minister Mike Penning has warned that people's livelihoods are being ruined by "ruthless criminal who consider homes and property in the countryside an easy target".
Sgt Taylor added: “The fall in crime here in North Wales is encouraging, however there is still a lot of hard work ahead for the team and our partner agencies.
“This isn’t a solo effort and we rely so much on our farming unions for their support and also our colleagues at the NRW for their invaluable assistance.
“We have a detailed structure and a plan to work to and we are optimistic that this will pay off and reduce crime in our rural communities and increase public confidence.”
North Wales Police’s Rural Crime Team officers can be contacted via the North Wales Police system by dialling 101 or by e-mailing direct to the team Ruralcrimeteam@north-wales.
See full story in the Free Press