Rural crime cost countryside £42m, says NFU Mutual

Lock your tractor or lose it _18468

Rural crime remained broadly static in 2015 as farmers and police adopted high-tech security measures to tackle increasingly sophisticated thieves who are turning to computers rather than bolt cutters, reports leading rural insurer, NFU Mutual.

Its annual Rural Crime Report, published today, reveals that the cost of rural crime to the UK economy has now reached £42.5 million a year.

But despite little change overall, regionally, there were still winners and losers in the war on rural crime. The worst affected regions remain the North East and East of England, with claims costing £7.9 and £6.9 million respectively. The Midlands and Northern Ireland saw the biggest rises, on 2014, with costs increasing by ten and 13 per cent.

Scotland and the South East however saw reductions of six and nine per cent. Scotland also has the lowest cost of rural crime, £1.7 million, closely followed by Wales, costing £2 million.

The cost of thefts from rural homes has followed a similar trend for the past couple of years, seeing a slight overall decrease to the cost in 2015, £6.2m down from £7.1m in 2014; however, the average claim was still significant at over £2,400.

“We have seen a shift in the items being targeted at rural homes though; in the latest survey of NFU Mutual’s Agency network, the theft of garden equipment was cited as the biggest growing trend along with 4x4’s,” said the Mutual’s Tim Price.

In the survey of NFU Mutual Agents, the majority (65 per cent) also reported that thieves in their area are becoming more sophisticated in the way that they operate and cyber crime is also a growing concern amongst their communities.

"Their tactics now include cloning tractor identities, advertising non-existent machinery in agricultural publications and stealing the GPS computer systems which are a key part of modern farming.

"Farmers are having to regularly update security measures at considerable cost to keep high-tech criminals at bay. They are using Tracker devices on tractors, video and infra-red surveillance in their farm yards and even DNA markers to protect sheep from rustlers,” added Mr Price.

The trends...

  • Tractors proved particularly vulnerable in the East and North East of England where a spate of high value thefts occurred and accounted for almost half of the total cost (£5.4million) across the UK.
  • Livestock rustling remains a huge problem with costs stubbornly high in Northern Ireland and the North East and South West of England. At a total cost to the UK of £2.9 million, 70 per cent came from these three regions alone.
  • However, successes have been seen. The costs of quad bike (ATV) theft saw a five per cent reduction, with Scotland seeing an impressive 37 per cent following a large scale initiative to provide specialist training to affected police forces.
  • Equine tack and equipment thefts have reduced by 41per cent – a huge reduction seen across almost every region.
  • Social media is now the main resource for sharing information about crime in rural communities and can be a valuable tool – not only for the prevention of rural crime but also catching criminals and returning stolen goods.
  • People living and working in the countryside should regularly evaluate their security measures – making improvements where necessary, remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the local police but also community watch schemes.

Last edited on: 01:08:2016

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