Nudge Theory and Farm Crime Prevention Decision Making: understanding the culture of farmers in England and Wales

Research Institution / Organisation

Harper Adams University

Principal Researcher

Miss Kreseda Smith

Level of Research


Project Start Date

September 2012

Research Context

​Historically, much criminological research and crime reduction policy has been principally focused on urban environments to the detriment of rural communities. Rural policing and crime reduction policies have never matched those of urban environments due to the lower reported crime levels and perceived lack of need. Many of the accepted theories of crime prevention, such as Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPED), are urban based and reflect conventional housing patterns. Only a few researchers have considered rural settlement patterns. The 1990’s however, saw a large increase in urban CCTV which has been linked to a generation of travelling criminals keen to exploit farms with a historically poor uptake of security and lower policing levels.

1. To evaluate farmers' crime prevention responses in relation to rising rural crime rates
2. To assess the effectiveness and uptake of current crime prevention measures, both physical and policy focussed
3. To model the choice architecture for farm based crime prevention adoption
4. Employ behavioural economics to design effective decision making contexts for crime prevention measures

The project has four key objectives:
1. An empirical analysis of rural crime in order to quantify, identify and evaluate the threat of rural crime, and an investigation of the historical reasons why the uptake of farm security does not match the rise in rural property and livestock crime.
2. Assess the impact on the farming industry of low levels of on-farm security in respect of animal health and welfare and crop production, and secondary crimes including hare coursing, extortion, and actions such as animal rights actions.
3. To ascertain whether farms are more likely to be targeted than other rural properties and which sort of farm property is most vulnerable.
4. Evaluate methods by which adoption of security measures can be promoted by appropriate policy mechanisms.

Research Methodology

​The data gathering will be conducted over three stages. The first is a farmer survey, sent out to approximately 55,000 farmers, in order to obtain baseline attitudes towards farm crime, on-farm crime prevention, and the police. Key points will be further explored at five farmer focus groups covering the five main agricultural sectors. The idea of Choice Architecture will be introduced to farmers at this point. Feedback from both the survey and the focus groups will then be used to inform questions on semi-structured interviews with the police, insurers, offenders, security providers, and other key stakeholders. This research will explore the feasibility of using police data to identify property vulnerability in order to undertake an evaluation of Routine Activity Theory: what are the attributes that make certain farms more attractive to criminals than other, sometimes neighbouring, farms. A review of existing rural security policies will be undertaken in order to direct recommendations for policy formulation specifically for farms, in conjunction with rural stakeholders with consideration to the rising costs and crime levels to farms, as well as issues relating to animal health and welfare, and crop production.

Interim reports and publications

K Smith; "Farm Crime in England and Wales: A preliminary scoping study examining farmer attitudes"; International Journal of Rural Criminology, vol 3, issues 2 (June) 2017

Date due for completion

June 2018
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