Countryside crime spree in the South west

4 July 2019, 19:40 | Updated: 4 July 2019, 19:43

Parts of the South west are in the middle of a crime epidemic in the countryside.

Organised gangs are stealing machinery to order some brazen thieves are doing this in broad daylight when farmers are having their lunch with families.

In the last six weeks a number of quad vehicles have been targeted - Police claim this is because they are easy to transport after the theft. 

They can be loaded in the back of transit vans and hidden from view, which means in an hour they can be out of the county and well on there way to a port for taking abroad.

The latest rural crime survey from NFU Mutual showed that rural crime costs the UK £44.5 million.

Another survey among farmers show 4 out of 5 are ‘unhappy’ with the service they receive from the police in trying to trace the criminals.

A loss of a quad bike, other machinery or even livestock can mean weeks of non-productivity and wasted money.

To find out for himself how big the problem is Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer went to the countryside around South Molton and Exmoor to find out for himself how bad the problem is.

He listened intently about problems with the 101 system and getting police to the scene before the thieves had got away.

Other concerns included follow up investigations where many farmers are told there is no hope catching the criminals despite neighbours providing them with names and partial number plates or suspicious vans. 

Mr Sawyer wants to lobby the government for more money to combat rural issues.

He told Heart: “That people living in the countryside should not be regarded as second class citizens and pay just as much council tax and deserve the appropriate service.”

He’s promised to spend 90% of any extra cash he gets from ministers on rural issues.

As part of his tour of the countryside he met farmers affected by thefts including livestock and machinery before seeing how poaching is affecting one family business.


In order to get more money the Chief Constable says he has to know how big the problem is.


While realising frustrations with the 101 system he still wants us to report any crimes as without the figures he cannot lobby for extra money.