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Criminals 'stake out' farmers' homes and businesses as rural crimewave spirals

Rural communities fear they are being ‘staked out’ by brazen thieves ready to pounce when an opportunity arises, a new survey by NFU Mutual has revealed.


Olivia   Midgley

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Olivia   Midgley
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Criminals 'stake out' farmers' homes and businesses as rural crimewave spirals

Fears over delays in police response times and a feeling of being isolated has added to anxiety amongst those living in the countryside.

 

The Mutual said that while rural crime had fallen by 4 per cent in 2016, it had seen a sharp increase in the first half of 2017.

 

This was despite a greater focus on farm security, with some farmyards now resembling ‘fortresses’ to deter would-be thieves.

 

NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Tim Price said: “While the fall in rural theft in 2016 is welcome news, the sharp rise in the first half of 2017 is deeply worrying.

 

“Countryside criminals are becoming more brazen and farmers are now having to continually increase security and adopt new ways of protecting their equipment.

 

“In some parts of the country, farmers are having to turn their farmyards into fortresses to protect themselves from repeated thieves who are targeting quads, tractors and power tools.

 

“They are using tracking devices on tractors, video and infra-red surveillance in their farmyards and even DNA markers to protect sheep from rustlers.

 

“The threat of becoming a victim of rural crime, and regular reports of suspicious characters watching farms is causing high levels of anxiety amongst farmers who know their rural location makes them vulnerable to attacks.”

 

Livestock, tractors, ATVs, quad bikes and Land Rover Defenders were high on thieves’ hit lists.

 

The North East, South West and the East of England were the regions to see a rise in the cost of rural theft in 2016 of 8.7 per cent, 5.6 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively.

 

In Scotland, where NFU Mutual and Police Scotland have joined forces to form the SPARC (Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime) initiative, the cost of rural theft fell by more than 32 per cent last year.

 

There was a similar good result in Northern Ireland – where a Rural Crime Partnership including NFU Mutual, PSNI (Police Service Northern Ireland), MOJ (Ministry of Justice) and other organisations has been set up – with the cost of rural theft down by 14.9 per cent.


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Quads and ATVS

  • Quads and ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles) are disappearing from farms in large numbers – thanks to being easy to transport and lack of registration plates
  • The cost of Quad and ATV theft claims to NFU Mutual rose to £2m, an increase of 11% from 2015 to 2016
  • CESAR marking and tracking devices are the most effective security measures – once basic measures of keeping vehicles out of sight in a building with the machine secured to have been addressed

 

Land Rover Defenders

  • Costs for theft of Defender vehicle claims to NFU Mutual rose to £2.1 million in 2016, an increase of 17 per cent since 2015
  • The region with the highest cost of Land Rover Defender thefts last year was the North East, followed by the South East, the Midlands and the South West

 

Tractors

  • Thieves are increasingly cloning the identity of tractors to make detection more difficult
  • Eastern counties are being targeted most
  • Thieves are stealing small, older tractors for export to third world countries as well as expensive large models

 

Livestock

  • The estimated cost of livestock theft fell from £2.9m in 2015 to £2.2m in 2016. All UK regions experienced a fall - apart from Wales where the cost rose by £100,000
  • Thefts of large numbers of lambs are raising concerns that stock is being stolen for slaughter and processing outside regulated abattoirs before illegally entering the food chain
  • Technology - including DNA testing and electronic chips in boluses now offer robust evidence to help bring rustlers to justice
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