Monday, September 16, 2019

Rural crime cost hits seven-year high

September 10, 2019 by  
Filed under News & Business

Rural theft has hit a seven-year high – with farmers deploying high-tech security devices to counter a wave of organised crime in the countryside.

Rural crime cost the UK £50m in 2018, an increase of 12% on the previous year, according to the latest figures from NFU Mutual. It is the highest cost in seven years – published in the rural insurer’s 2019 Rural Crime Report.

High-value thefts

In the Midlands, the cost of crime rose 10.3% to £9.8m. The biggest percentage increase was seen in Scotland (62%), although its rural crime cost remains below the UK average. The second-highest regional rise was 25% in north-east England.

NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Tim Price said the sharp rises were being driven mainly by high-value thefts of tractors, quad bikes and other farm vehicles. These had increased by 26% to £7.4m in 2018.

“The last time rural theft reached the current level was in 2011 when international gangs took advantage of a largely unsecured countryside. Today, we are seeing another rise as organised criminal gangs with links to money laundering and drugs find ways to beat security.”

Farmers and other rural residents were suffering from high anxiety due to repeated thefts by gangs who took advantage of isolated locations to steal machinery, raid tool stores and even butcher sheep in the fields.

Mr Price said: “In a single generation, country people have seen rural crime change from the opportunist theft of a single lamb, to brazen heists of tractors worth over £100,000 and rustlers stealing hundreds of sheep.

Severe impact

“We are even seeing agricultural vehicles being stolen to smash into village shops to rob cash machines. As well as causing huge structural damage to buildings, these raids can lead to shop owners not replacing ATMs for fear of further attacks.”

One of the most alarming findings from this year’s report is that fear of crime is changing life in the countryside. Mr Price said constant reports of thefts and suspicious vehicles touring the countryside meant rural people felt under siege.

“Repeat attacks are causing widespread anxiety and exacerbating the problems of rural isolation among farmers who often work alone all day. Some farmers are so concerned about the risk of criminal attack they can no longer leave the farm with their family to attend local events.”

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