Soaring cost of crime in the South West

10 August 2023

Police car parked in front of a farm gate

The huge impact of rural crime is revealed in NFU Mutual’s 2023 Rural Crime report. It shows that crime cost the South West £5 million last year, up by almost a fifth (16.6%) from 2021.

GPS units, quad bikes and ATVs were among the top targets for rural thieves, while the UK cost of livestock theft rose 8.7% in 2022, totalling an estimated £2.7m. Fuel theft doubled as well.

Read the report: NFU Mutual 2023 Rural Crime report

Phoebe Ridley from NFU Mutual in the South West said: “Highly-organised gangs are causing disruption to farming and widespread concern to people in the countryside.

“Rural theft is changing. It is not only opportunist thieves travelling a few miles, we are now seeing internationally organised criminal activity. Gangs target high-value farm machinery and GPS kits because they can be sold worldwide.

Stolen to order

“Many items are stolen ‘to order’ by thieves using online technology to identify where farm machinery is stored and scope out the best way to steal it. They will also spend hours watching the movement of farming families to work out the best time to attack.

“Loss of vital machinery and GPS equipment causes huge disruption to farmers who are already stretched to the limit and replacing kit in the current economic situation can take months, adding additional stress.”

NFU success

The NFU continues to raise the issue of rural crime with politicians, the police and local authorities.

One recent success involved working with MPs and peers to guide the Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill through Parliament. The Act will give the Home Secretary new powers to make regulations that deter the theft and resale of quads and ATVs.

Fitting ATVs with immobilisers and forensic markings and ensuring the owners details are registered on a database will help make them less attractive for criminals.

“Many items are stolen ‘to order’ by thieves using online technology to identify where farm machinery is stored and the best way to steal it.”

Phoebe Ridley, NFU Mutual in the South West

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