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.