Countryside visitors urged to help stop rural criminal gangs

Crimestoppers said there is an underreporting of offences committed in rural areas.

Countryside visitors urged to help stop rural criminal gangs Getty Images

A crime charity is asking visitors to Scotland’s countryside to be the “eyes and ears” of isolated communities to help stop rural crime.

Crimestoppers said there is an underreporting of offences committed in rural areas including those by criminal gangs.

It is asking visitors to anonymously report what they see.

The charity said it had recently received reports of a man using aggressive dogs to carry out illegal hunting of deer and game including rabbits.

Other crimes reported include local tradesmen burying asbestos in earth mounds and dumping and burning rubbish, and the theft of plant machinery from building sites and farms.

It said diggers, caterpillars, bobcats and tractors that do not have trackers on have been stolen and sold across Europe.

Statistics issued this week by NFU Mutual estimated that rural theft cost Scotland £1.7m in 2020.

Crimestoppers has now launched an appeal with SPARC (Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime), Mitie and Neighbourhood Watch to help raise the profile of rural crime.

It will focus on wildlife crime and environmental crime and theft and give advice on how to spot hare coursing, poaching and badger baiting.

The charity said criminal gangs exploit local wildlife, the environment and communities leaving rural residents feeling unsafe in their own homes.

Rural crime is repetitive and organised, it said, with Crimestoppers receiving nearly 2700 anonymous reports across the UK in the year to April 2021, a 14% increase on the year before.

Last year, it passed on more than 16,500 anonymous pieces of information in Scotland.

Angela Parker, national manager for Scotland at Crimestoppers, said: “Our charity knows how damaging crime in the countryside can be: to local communities, to rural businesses, to farmers, wildlife and the environment.

“Every day we hear from people who are in the know about those involved in damaging our beautiful countryside across Scotland, but there is so much more we can do.

“By telling us anonymously what you know, whether you live or are visiting rural areas, your information can help make all the difference.”

John Hayward-Cripps, chief executive of Neighbourhood Watch Network, said: “With headlines often focused on crime in the cities, it is easy to forget rural crime, but rural crime is increasing and is a serious issue.

“From hare coursing to machinery theft, the impact of rural crime on victims’ lives and livelihood can be enormous, with victims often left with long-term anxiety. Together we can stop it.”

Crime can be reported anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via here.