A peak in the cost of rural crime since 2013 has driven farmers to fight back using a combination of modern security measures and medieval methods.
The use of more traditional methods – including earth banks and ditches, single entry points and reinforced gates – came following a jump of 13.4 per cent in costs, taking 2017 figures to £44.5 million.
NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Tim Price said the surge was ‘this time fuelled by a new breed of determined and brazen thieves who are using a combination of brute force and technological knowhow to steal from farms and country homes’.
VIDEO: Kent farmer Jeremy Scott tells of his experience of being attacked when he confronted thieves on his farm. Mr Scott, whose farm has been targeted numerous times, said: “I wake up every night at 1.30am and I do not go to sleep until 4am, because that is when they come.”
The figures were released in NFU Mutual’s 2018 Rural Crime Report, which said the cost of rural crime was rising at its fastest rate since 2010.
Mr Price said: “Faced with repeated and determined attacks from a new breed of brazen thieves, farmers and country people are turning to history books to re-purpose security measures from medieval times.
“Adapting centuries-old security with high tech solutions is already proving successful in keeping at bay thieves who do not fear being caught on camera and have the skills to overcome electronic security systems.”
He said protective animals such as geese, llamas and dogs were also being used to provide ‘a useful low-tech alarm system, much as they did hundreds of years ago’.
According to the report, limited police resources and repeated attacks were the biggest concerns for people living in the countryside, with quads and ATVs, tools, machinery and 4x4s topping thieves’ wish lists.
This surge in individual thefts saw agricultural vehicle thefts jump to £5.9m, up from £5.4m in 2016; quad and ATV theft hit £2.3m from £2m; and livestock thefts reach £2.4m, up from £2.2m.
Thefts of Land Rover Defenders was the only category to see a drop in claim costs, down £0.2m from £2.1m in 2016 to £1.9m in 2017.
But while the cost of rural crime in England and Wales hit its highest since 2013, the report said costs of claims in Scotland continued to fall.
West Yorkshire: £1,708,312
Total figures in the country saw a 3.8 per cent drop, with the cost of farm vehicle theft dropping by 48 per cent over the last three years.
It came as NFU Mutual ploughed more than £135,000 into the Scotland Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC), something it said was a ‘shining example of the difference such an initiative can make’.
Deputy Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police Craig Naylor said: “We are looking to examples of best practice that can be adapted to other local areas, such as the results gained by SPARC which includes Police Scotland, Scottish Business Resilience Centre and NFU Mutual.
“The work done by SPARC is leading the way on reducing thefts of agricultural vehicles and the NPCC are keen to learn from this experience and bring the tactics to forces in England and Wales.”