The cost of rural crime hit £44.5m in 2017, the highest for four years, according to rural insurer NFU Mutual.
Up 13.4% on 2016 figures, last year’s rural crime wave is recorded in NFU Mutual’s annual Rural Crime Report, which is published today and shows the level of crime against farming rising as its fastest rate since 2010.
“Across the UK, the cost of rural crime has risen most sharply in Wales, up 41% on the previous year,” said NFU Mutual, “followed by the Midlands which is up 32%, while the South East has seen a rise of 30%. The cost of rural theft in Scotland has fallen 3.8%, while the North East is the only English region showing a fall, down 6.5%.”
The report also reveals that farmers are putting up earth banks, dry ditches, stockade fences and high-security single access points to fortify their farms against criminals who use 4 x 4 vehicles to get onto farm land to commit crimes and evade police. Protective animals such as geese, llamas, and dogs are being used to provide a useful low-tech alarm system, much as they did hundreds of years ago.
“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,” said Tim Price, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual.
“Adapting centuries-old security with high tech solutions is already proving successful in keeping at bay thieves who don’t fear being caught on camera and have the skills to overcome electronic security systems.”
Farmers are also using hi-tech tracking devices and immobilisers on vehicles, CCTV video, dashcams, motion sensors, infra-red surveillance and SmartWater marking in their farmyards and even DNA markers to protect sheep from rustlers.
The report has also found that limited police resources and repeat attacks are the biggest fears for people in rural communities, with many forced to change the way they live and work as a result of rural crime.
“With police facing huge challenges – including budget cuts and extra workload – forces are finding it hard to resource rural policing and this may be one of the reasons for the rise in thefts we are seeing,” said Mr Price.
“However social media is fast becoming the new eyes and ears of the countryside, strengthening the community ties that help in the reporting and recording of crime and bringing thieves to justice.”