The Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) Rural Crime Strategy has seen some positive early results with reductions in rural crime and associated financial costs in the year 2022-2023, based on updated reporting figures.

See the SPARC update below for more information.

Please note the below monthly update for March 2023 plus the yearly figures collated from 01st April 2022 – 31st March 2023.   

  • In terms of overall rural crimes reported during March 2023, there was a further continued downward trend in the number of reported incidents across Scotland with 16 less reported crimes and offences compared to March 2022.  In terms of all crimes reported, the North East (Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire & Moray) was the most targeted area this month followed by The Lothians & The Scottish Borders area then Tayside with the main offences relating to a significant rise in livestock attacks and worrying, then theft of agricultural + plant machinery and fuel theft.  Total cost of rural crime from estimated and actual figures across Scotland totalled £347,522 with a total of £17,000 recovered, all of which relates to stolen agricultural + plant machinery. This compares to a total from estimated and actual figures of £650,585 and a total of £81,000 recovered in March 2022.
  • In terms of the cost of rural crime from estimated and actual figures for 01st April 2022 – 31st March 2023, the total figure was £3,658,084 with a total of £523,837 recovered. This compares toa total cost of £5,696,846 and £1,203,190 recovered for the same period 01st April 2021 – 31st March 2022.  This indicates an overall reduction in the financial harm to Scotland’s rural communities of £2,038,762 which equates to a drop by 35.79%.  Over the same 12 month period, 01st April 2022 – 31st March 2023, the number of reported rural crimes, incidents and offences to Police Scotland was 1,182 compared to 1,466 during 01st April 2021 – 31st March 2022 – a reduction of 284 which equates to a drop by 19.37% !!  
  • Of note, it can therefore be inferred there were a minimum of 284 less victims during the recording period.  Bearing in mind, over the past couple of years the NR&ACU have been assisted in a more accurate capturing of rural incidents due to the successful introduction of an automated search for all recorded incidents reported to Police Scotland in a 24hr period using key words.  Add to this the continued and pro-active drive by all those on SPARC & the 16 local PARC’s to encourage those living, working and enjoying Scotland’s rural communities and environments to report any crime, incident or offence to policing.  These figures highlight just how effective the prevention, intelligence, enforcement and reassurance model being applied by SPARC has been.
  • What the facts and figures did reinforce was The Lothians & The Scottish Borders followed closely by the North East were predominately the most targeted areas.  Theft of agricultural and forestry machinery, plant & quad bike/ATV’s was the most frequent crime followed by livestock offences then fuel theft with May and June being the two most prolific months during the reporting period.
  • In terms of cross border activity, a total of 8 bulletins were circulated during March under ‘Operation Hawkeye’. The total number of bulletins submitted from 01st April 2022 – 31st March 2023 was 130 compared to 208 submitted from 01st April 2021 – 31st March 2022.  This highlights the clear success Operation Hawkeye has had in disrupting, detecting and ultimately imprisoning numerous key individuals of known SOCG’s, particularly located in the Durham area specialising in cross border rural crime as well as local crime groups operating at a divisional level.  NR&ACU now attend bi-monthly Operation Hawkeye meetings where intelligence/emerging trends and information are shared with colleagues south of the Border which now include Cleveland, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire in addition to the original Forces of Northumbria, Durham and Cumbria.  It is therefore no surprise to note the correlation when identified criminality who target rural, cross border crime are deprived of the opportunity to do so, this equates to a reduction in reported rural crimes, incidents and offences coupled with the significant reduction in terms of financial value of stolen equipment, machinery, plant, quads etc.  In addition 69 bulletins have been received and distributed from Operation Opal based in West Mercia, an increase of 38 from last year.

March proved to be a positive month for policing with various notable apprehensions and recoveries including x4 young males, all from the Bradford and Leeds area who were arrested after committing and trying to commit numerous housebreakings in rural locations across Ayrshire, arrests made in Mid Lothian following a pursuit after 3 quad bikes were stolen plus as a result of a warrant being executed, the recovery of 5 quad bikes within a premises in Fife.

In relation to flytipping, hopefully most of you will be aware that as of the 01st April 2023, the Dumb Dumpers telephone line run by SEPA’s Contact Centre (0300 777 2292), is no longer accepting flytipping reports and anyone who calls that number will hear a recorded message asking them to contact the relevant local authority.  After around 6 months the phone line will be completely disconnected.  Similarly, on the same date, the Dumb Dumpers online reporting form, hosted on Zero Waste Scotland’s website, no longer operates.  Instead, a basic page will ask users to contact the relevant local authority.

This was in response to consultation and feedback which highlighted that after almost 20 years of service, reporting via Dumb Dumpers accounted for only a tiny percentage (less than 5%) of the total number of flytipping incidents in Scotland, with the majority of incidents reported directly to a local authority.  The majority of reports made through Dumb Dumpers were triaged to local authorities who may have already had the same incident reported directly to them and there was no easy way for the original reporter of flytipping to then get any feedback on incidents.  In a nutshell, the service was deemed no longer fit for purpose.

In addition, unfortunately the long awaited Scottish Government Litter & Flytipping strategy has been further delayed – please see update below from the Waste Prevention Policy Team, Scottish Government:

In November 2022 the Scottish Government confirmed a delay to publishing the National Litter and Flytipping Strategy until the first quarter of 2023.  However, due to unforeseen circumstances around the appointment of a new First Minister, the Scottish Government will not be in a position to publish the Strategy this month.  Nonetheless, following the appointment of a new Cabinet and Ministers, the Scottish Government hope to publish the Strategy as soon as possible.  We apologise for this unanticipated further delay, and wish to reiterate our commitment to tacking litter and flytipping, and provide reassurance that, despite the delay, the Scottish Government and key partners continue to drive momentum on the Strategy and are working on a number of enabling actions that will support an acceleration of work on the National Litter and Flytipping Strategy.