When you think of the countryside you may conjure up images of quaint stone-built houses, the village pub occupied by local farmers, walks through meadows full of flowers, and picnics by a babbling brook.
While all of this is true, crime happens in rural areas just as it does in the more urban areas, towns and cities.
Statistics from 2013 provided by the NFU Mutual show that while rural crime decreased when compared with findings from 2012, it is a still a problem, and cost the UK public an estimated Â£42.3m during 2012.
Counties which saw the most rural crime were Yorkshire (Â£3.4m), Essex (Â£1.9m), Lincolnshire and Kent (Â£1.8m), while a fall in the rural crime rate was shown in the Midlands (-32%) and the South West (-26%).
Having been brought up and raised on a farm, I still have strong connections with farming as my brother farms close to where I live. He has recently been a victim of rural crime himself, having had a quad bike stolen at the end of 2013, which is an essential tool to a hill farmer. More recently, he was informed by his farmer friend of the theft of 30 sheep from a neighbouring farm, all of which were due to give birth quite soon.
Both of these incidents are not just a petty theft, but have a huge impact on theÂ working life of the farmer. My brother not being able to travel out to tend for his livestock on the far reaching fields and moors, and his friend losing 30 sheep which he had tended throughout pregnancy to the point of giving birth, only to see them stolen from his field.
Regional schemes and initiatives to tackle rural crime are in place throughout the UK such as Farm Watch, which is about farmers and landowners working in partnership with each other and the police to prevent rural crime and protect farms.Â While the use of social media to tackle these issues is also on the up, there is still no evidence of a dedicated online rural crime website for reporting these crimes.
Having witnessed two farmers affected by rural crime in a short period of time, I came up with the online Farm Watcher UK initiative, which aims to provide a platform for farmers, landowners, livery yards, agricultural machinery specialists, and anyone connected with agriculture to inform others of rural crime in their area. The initiative is broken down into three phases.
Phase one is the introduction of Farm Watcher UK to relevant social media platforms, namely Facebook and Twitter, in which during our first two weeks of launching we gained a fantastic number of likes, with one of our Facebook posts being shared 657 times and viewed by over 30,000 people. This shows that people are willing to engage, and to share content with other to tackle rural crime.
Phase two will see the launch of a community driven website, where users can register for free and log their rural theft, thus alerting others and requesting information about possible sightings of the stolen items throughout the UK.
Phase three will be the development of a mobile smartphone app, capable of alerting users immediately to any thefts posted on the website. We recognise that farmers and landowners will mostly be out in the field all day, so will not have access to a computer, so this method of information sharing will broaden the reach of the theft alert.
It is envisaged that the Farm Watcher UK website will be available by May 2014, however, theft alerts can be shared by using our Facebook page.
We hope that this initiative will prove to be an informative and efficient way to share rural crime alerts and value your feedback which you can email to [email protected].