Harper Adams University: English farmers’ experiences of crime sought for international research project

English farmers’ experiences of crime are being studied as part of an ongoing international research project– with the effects of everything from physical attacks to cybercrime being examined.

The research – which involves farmers filling in a short survey – is being carried out by Dr Kreseda Smith, a Rural Criminologist and member of the Rural Security Research Group based at Harper Adams University.

Dr Smith explained that her latest work would feed into a wider global picture – allowing comparisons between the experiences of English farmers and those in other countries.

She said: “A lot of my research, and that of others, around rural crime reports a lack of confidence in the police among rural communities.

“My own work found that farmers felt like second class citizens in the way the police approach reports of rural crime.

“This international project is looking to explore similarities and differences in the experiences of farmers when they become a victim of crime, the police response, but also their perceptions of crime and criminal justice.”

The Rural Security Research Group brings together academics from across a range of disciplines – drawing on the experience of agriculturalists and geographers as much as behavioural scientists and criminologists.

It seeks to discover issues which affect the food and farming sectors as they emerge – and to help guide and develop policy to deal with them.

With cybercrime becoming an increasing issue over the past decade, the survey features several questions on how it has affected its participants – and Dr Smith warned that the work of cybercriminals was becoming both more sophisticated and a greater issue for farmers – with digital farming administration now on the rise.

She said: “The farming community, as with many others, face increasing attack from cybercriminals.

“They are increasingly becoming victims to cybercrime such as malware and Denial of Services attacks, as well and cyber-enabled crimes such as financial fraud or theft.

“This is very much driven by the fact that so much of the reporting paperwork and receipt of payments is increasingly done online, and criminals know when best to target potential victims, such as when subsidy payments are made to farmers.”

With the changing picture of crimes which rural communities, and farmers in particular, now face, Dr Smith anticipates responses to the survey could demonstrate both a greater use of crime prevention techniques, but also an increase in the rate of people becoming victims of crime among respondents.

She added: “I believe fear of crimes that feel more personal, such as home invasion or physical attacks, may show high levels, but reporting of thefts – I suspect – will be concerningly low despite the ongoing cost of living crisis.

“I am most interested to see how farmer confidence in the police response to rural crime may have changed over the last few years, along with farmers’ experiences and perceptions of cybercrime.

“I am also keen to see how the experiences of English farmers compares to those in other countries taking part in this international collaboration, and whether there is any best practice we can learn from the research.”

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