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Myerscough innovation leads fight against rural crime in Lancashire

Published
Monday 7 March

In what is believed to be a first in the country, Lancashire Constabulary and Myerscough College have joined forces to create an innovative addition to rural crime prevention tactics.

FARM DEFENDER MAIN PIC

Farm Defender is a virtual reality (VR) experience that uses computer technology to create a simulated farm environment.  Unlike traditional user interfaces, VR places the user inside an experience.

Accessed via a smartphone, users are immersed and able to interact with the 3D world. It is designed to educate users in an engaging and immersive way about the points on their farm which are vulnerable to organised crime gangs and offers advice on how to protect their equipment and property.

Originating as a Problem Oriented Policing idea by Sgt Guy Hamlett from Lancashire Police’s Wyre Local Policing Team - which aimed to reduce the risks of rural communities being targeted by criminals and organised crime gangs - Farm Defender has been brought to life by experts and students at Myerscough College who have instrumental in developing the project.

Sgt Hamlett said: “Sadly, farms can be seen as easy targets by criminals, who cause misery by stealing essential machinery, working dogs and livestock.

‘’Crime prevention is crucial in enabling people to be one step ahead of criminals and take action where needed to reduce vulnerabilities.”

At Myerscough, the initiative has been driven by the College’s e-Learning Team, with the project led by Adrian Capstick, Senior Digital Content Designer and Learning Developer, in conjunction with current learners on agriculture study programmes.

David Singleton, lecturer in agriculture, said: ‘’We started off by looking at the fact that rural crime affects many people across Lancashire and more widely across the country, and we wanted to look at ways of minimising the risk of farms being targeted.

‘’So, myself and my agriculture students then put something together that could inform the public on how they could ‘target harden’ their machines and equipment.

‘’This initiative will be of significant benefit, not only to our students, but also to the wider young farming community, to best equip the next generation of the agricultural sector workforce to combat crime.’’

Superintendent Chris Hardy, Tactical Lead for Rural Policing at Lancashire Police said: “Farm Defender is bringing crime prevention into the digital age, engaging people through the use of technology to empower them to protect themselves and their property and to prevent them from becoming victims of crime. I am proud of our work with Myerscough on this innovative partnership. It’s one of the ways we’re using new and emerging technologies to fight crime and protect our rural communities.”

Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden said: “Rural crime like the theft of plant, machinery or livestock from Lancashire farms can destroy lives and livelihoods.

"I am investing in additional officers and equipment for our rural policing teams who work hard to tackle this type of crime and to deter criminals wanting to exploit the rural areas of our county.

"I want Lancashire to lead the way nationally on fighting rural crime and remain fully committed to ensuring that all areas of Lancashire, both urban and rural, are safe and protected.

"It's fantastic to see the use of digital innovation to support this work and to help rural communities to protect themselves."

You can access Farm Defender here or by scanning this QR Code from your smart device: