Why criminal damage in the Leicestershire countryside have doubled during the coronavirus pandemic

Incidents include damage to gates, fences and hedges, vehicles being driven on to farmers’ land and dog attacks on livestock

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 10:29 am

Criminal damage in the Leicestershire countryside have doubled during the coronavirus pandemic.

The increase has come as many more people have gone out to walk their dogs, meet their friends and take their daily exercise during the national Covid-19 lockdowns.

From April 2020 to March 2021, Leicestershire Police received 121 reports of damage to farms, farmhouses, stables and fields compared to 61 between 2019 and 2020 and 67 between 2018 and 2019.

Insp Siobhan Gorman, who led Harborough police for three years before leaving this week.

Incidents include damage to gates, fences and hedges and vehicles being driven on to farmers’ land.

And the number of dog attacks on livestock such as sheep has increased from 11 to 18.

Insp Siobhan Gorman, who led Harborough police for three years before leaving this week, said: “Visitors to the countryside have increased as a way of getting out during lockdown and more people have bought dogs which need exercising.

“We want people to enjoy the beautiful rural areas of Leicestershire and Rutland.

“But we are asking people to please respect the rules of the countryside after all that is how farmers make their living.”

She insisted: “If you are walking your dog in the countryside and are unfamiliar with the area, always keep your dog on the lead as there could be sheep and cattle nearby that you aren't aware of.

“Sheep worrying is an offence and you could be liable for prosecution and heavy financial penalties if your dog is involved in an incident of this type.

“Always plan your route, stick to footpaths and please abide by any signs or rules.

“Don't remove them or deface them as they are there for a reason and please don’t remove or damage fencing,” added Insp Gorman, based at Market Harborough.

“Farmers work hard to maintain their boundaries to ensure their animals remain enclosed and safe.”

Websites such as www.footpathmap.co.uk will tell you where the footpaths are and outline the difference between a footpath, bridleway and byway.

Anyone who witnesses criminal incidents in the Harborough countryside can report them online or by calling 101.