Newer models are designed to use the Mobile 3G data network as well as ultra low powered models that can work purely from solar cells recharging batteries
Innovative surveillance technology, relaxation in UK Data Protection Laws and shared resources are key to curb rural crimes

The significant rise in crime in rural areas in recent times in the UK has led to growing calls from security and crime prevention experts for government to make it easier for communities and law enforcement to fight back. “In our areas, every farm within a 5 mile radius has had trespass, some kind of theft of property, plant or livestock in the last year,” comments Richard Hoyle, a farmer based near Brentwood in Essex,UK.

Cost of rising rural crime

Data from insurer NFU Mutual's Rural Crime Survey (RCS) shows that two-thirds of branches had reported an increase in rural crime in their area. In England alone, theft cost to farmers hit £42.8m in 2010, up 26% on the previous year. The high prices for scrap metal and oil also led to them becoming key targets for thieves.

Hoyle experienced the issue himself when thieves stole items from his farm to speed off in a Renault branded car. However what the criminals didn't realise was that “Farmer” Hoyle is also an expert in video surveillance as Managing Director of Advitel, a local CCTV firm.

The entire incident had been recorded via a high-resolution digital CCTV system that covers his land, which included the number plate of the vehicle and clear evidential quality images of the culprits. With the details in hand, traffic police were able to apprehend the vehicle after a short chase, which was featured in the British Channel 5 show, “Police Interceptor.”

Innovative video surveillance technology, relaxation in Data Protection Laws in the UK and shared resources are key to curbing rural crime way, say experts

“Thieves assume rightly that most farmers don't have access to this type of technology,” Hoyle comments and feels that most are not prepared to shoulder the expense of installation, running costs as well as many of the technical and legal hurdles.

Using CCTV security systems to monitor rural areas

One of the main problems with operating CCTV in rural areas is power and connectivity for the images to be viewed remotely.  Mike Lewis, a CCTV expert for MOBOTIX, a large CCTV supplier to organisations like Police, Councils & Commercial properties believes that the new generation of CCTV equipment has effectively solved some of the major issues.

CCTV cameras used to combat rural crime
Operating CCTV in rural areas can present challenge as power source is not readily available

Newer models are designed to use the Mobile 3G data network as well as ultra low powered models that can work purely from solar cells recharging batteries. The security cameras only activate when there is movement, which allows them to be self-sufficient for years without maintenance. “Some of the newer CCTV models can also store video internally which can then be remotely downloaded only if an incident has occurred.” Lewis adds.

As the MOBOTIX CCTV expert points out that this, “is not science fiction, we already have 500 of our security cameras deployed by Viasala for remote roadside monitoring systems used by an organisation like the Highways Agency at rural locations across the UK.”

Legal issues surrounding use of CCTV systems

The other issue is legal restrictions on where a CCTV system can be sited; who it can film, who has access to the footage and sharing that information as part of Freedom of Information requests. “Putting a CCTV camera that overlooks a road is a tricky legal issue [in the UK],” explains Hoyle, “It makes it hard for small rural communities to erect communal security cameras that are able to protect an area by monitoring crucial approach roads or junctions.”

Even with advances in technology driving down the cost of CCTV cameras, 3G providing universal access to the footage and eco-power sources at hand; the cost of monitoring is seen as prohibitive. However, Lewis believes that existing CCTV technologies used for congestion charging schemes accross the UK offers a solution. “If you look at the statistics, 95% of rural crime involves a motor vehicle, normally transit vans, which are easily identifiable via Number Plate Recognition (NPR) technology, such as the congestion zones in many cities.”

Datqa protection
There are several legal issues to consider when placing a CCTV overlooking a public area
Lewis believes that similar automated surveillance systems that simply log vehicles in an area that then allow footage to be correlated in the event of an incident could provide solutions to both privacy concerns and rural security. “There would be nobody sitting at screens all day long prying on innocent people driving around the countryside, but if there was a theft, the system could quickly divulge an image of vehicles in and around the area between a set of times.”

Schemes in place to help combat crime

Hoyle is also an active member in his local Farm Watch, a close federation of regional schemes that help rural communities combat crime in the UK. In his view, unless more resources are dedicated to the problem – it is bound to get worse. “Most of these thefts happen between 12am and 6am and in a location where the nearest neighbour is miles away, thieves know that even if they are disturbed – they will probably escape scot-free.”

“It is not just money or grants, simple things like having a register of where security cameras are located and a common method for the police to access them to help investigate rural crime would help. Then people can add systems to a growing network that makes it harder for criminals to get away without being spotted by at least one CCTV system,” he notes.

The British Home Office also currently has a £10 million ‘Community Action against Crime Innovation Fund’ with £5m available for this year and a further £5m for 2012/13

The British Government has a scheme to invest around £170 million in CCTV but of the £67 million already handed out; the majority has gone to major transport infrastructure, large cities and housing estates. However, The British Home Office also currently has a £10 million ‘Community Action against Crime Innovation Fund’with £5m available for this year and a further £5m for 2012/13. The purpose of the Innovation Fund is to stimulate creative new approaches to tackling crime by empowering local groups to develop innovative projects to tackle local community safety problems. “Unless communities can work together to provide proposals that can benefit wider regions, it is hard to secure funding – we really need to become more creative in the use of technology,” Hoyle adds.

In the few rural schemes where district councils have invested in shared CCTV monitoring, it has delivered significant benefit in allowing police to better allocate resources, reduce crime and lower insurance premiums. “What we would like is help from the government to form local community groups that will share some of the burden in setting up CCTV zones with the government assisting in covering the cost of developing monitoring systems in concert with local police forces,” explains Hoyle.

“Even having the ability to put up security cameras at junctions along with clear signs saying that CCTV and NPR technology is active in the area will deter the opportunistic thieves – this would be a good start, but again, rural district councils have no clear incentive or funding to do what would be considered as standard in towns like London, Birmingham or Manchester,” he adds.

Both experts agree that community action groups can have a role to play. Farm Watch has one of the highest rates of adoption in Wales where it has chapters in Anglesey, Meirionnydd, West Conwy, Northop, South Denbighshire and Llanfair.  It seems that this might be having an impact on crime with data from insurer NFU Mutual's Rural Crime Survey suggesting that rural crime in Wales is down by 48% from the previous year.

Richard Hoyle, a farm owner based near Brentwood in Essex

Richard Hoyle
Farmer based near Brentwood in Essex,UK

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

What are the security challenges of protecting SMBs?
What are the security challenges of protecting SMBs?

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) make huge contributions to the economy overall. Considered individually, they may not be as large as companies in the enterprise market, but they have big requirements when it comes to security. SMBs also present unique challenges to security manufacturers and integrators seeking to serve their needs. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the security challenges of protecting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)?

Expert roundup: healthy buildings, blockchain, AI, skilled workers, and more
Expert roundup: healthy buildings, blockchain, AI, skilled workers, and more

Our Expert Panel Roundtable is an opinionated group. However, for a variety of reasons, we are sometimes guilty of not publishing their musings in a timely manner. At the end of 2020, we came across several interesting comments among those that were previously unpublished. Following is a catch-all collection of those responses, addressing some of the most current and important issues in the security marketplace in 2021.

Smart Offices: How is mobile ID changing the way we access the office?
Smart Offices: How is mobile ID changing the way we access the office?

If you’re a security or facilities manager, you may already be aware of the quiet revolution that’s taking place across businesses and organisations up and down the country. By the end of 2020, 20% of all ID and access control systems featured mobile capability, and this is set to increase by a further 34% over the next three years. There’s no doubt that using a smartphone or mobile device in place of traditional credential and access control is a growing trend that’s only been sped up by the pandemic. It’s true that many businesses are still very much focused on remote working, although many are now starting to implement new-and-improved strategies that are better suited to protect the workforce moving forward. Mobile ID systems As the next normal becomes clearer, businesses will be reviewing procedures such as access control, occupancy monitoring, reducing touch points and tracking visitors. Mobile ID systems are ideally suited to this task. But what are the key reasons for considering such a setup in 2021? But why is this new technology so well-suited to future-proof your physical access system, and why is it becoming so popular? Eradicating outdated legacy credentials Have you seen just how vulnerable outdated Proximity card technology can be? Low-frequency 125kHz cards can be cloned in a matter of seconds with the use of cheap, readily available tools. Despite their weaknesses, they are still used by a huge majority of businesses – big and small. All smartphones include two industry-standard features that make them perfect for operating a secure, contactless credential Replacing such a system with a mobile-enabled system is one of the best ways to increase security ten-fold. Thanks to a cloud-based infrastructure, mobile ID offers best-in-class security and cryptography. All smartphones include two industry-standard features that make them perfect for operating a secure, contactless credential. Bluetooth Smart and NFC (Near Field Communication) make them the best product to operate such a credential via a secure app. If you’re looking for best-in-class security in 2021, mobile access is most definitely the way forward. Removing touch points across the business Reducing touch points and the adoption of touchless facilities has become a key priority for businesses in the wake of COVID-19. Even as businesses start to return to the office and operate a home/office split, it will be imperative that unnecessary contact is kept to an absolute minimum between staff. The traditional issuance of identification and access control credentials can pose problems in this regard. Facility and security managers who are responsible for onboarding and processing ID have done the process face to face. Mobile access makes it possible to carry this process out without people coming into direct content. First, the security manager has access to a secure portal, allowing them to create, manage and edit credentials anywhere. They can upload and remotely transfer mobile ID and access control credentials directly to users’ smartphones over the air. Via the secure app, users can view and see their credentials and immediately begin using it for ID and access control by simply placing their smartphone over card readers. Enabling a more flexible way of working The way in which we work has changed for good. Even as people more people return to the office in 2021, a majority of businesses will be operating a home/office split indefinitely. This once again reinforces the need for a smarter, more adaptable onboarding system. Implementing mobile ID is the perfect way of doing this: over-the-air delivery of credentials and security data is now a given, helping businesses create the perfect balance between the home and the office. No longer do people have to come into the office for the onboarding process. Increasing convenience and user experience More often businesses are realising the value mobile ID can have for enhancing the work experience as well as security Ok, so mobile ID is the perfect way of increasing security and adapting workplaces to a post-COVID way of working. And we’ve not even touched on the most obvious advantage yet: Convenience. How many times have you forgotten your ID card? We’re sure it’s more times than you forget your smartphone. These powerful processors have become intertwined with the way we carry out tasks on a daily basis. They’re so vital that people will soon notice if they’ve forgotten it. From an employee’s perspective, mobile ID and access control is simple, convenient and extremely user-friendly. More and more businesses are realising the value mobile ID can have for enhancing the work experience as well as security. From the employer’s perspective, mobile ID means it’s easier for administrators to manage access and credentials. Future-proofing access control now will ensure that in the longer term, mobile ID is well worth the investment. The annual expenditure of printing ID cards and purchasing credentials can be vast, while reissuance costs can also quickly add up for larger organisations. These issues are a thing of the past for businesses using mobile ID. Mobile ID perfect tool for 2021 and beyond Until mobile ID, new and improved credentials’ main focus was on increasing security. Mobile ID not only delivers that, but it also provides a more convenient way of accessing the office in a way that’s perfectly suited to returning to the office in 2021. If there was ever a time to upgrade, now is the time. Summing up, mobile access is changing the way we access the office by: Eliminating weak links in security systems such as outdated legacy card technologies Eradicating the need for touch points across multiple areas of the workplace Enabling a smarter, more flexible approach to onboarding Increasing convenience – for both employers and employees.