Despite attempts to deter them, thieves are continuing to target high-value tractors, ATVs and other farm machinery.
So worried are farmers in Gloucestershire – where, on average, four ATVs a month are stolen – that the county has started a series of initiatives to cut farm crime. Though still in its infancy, it has attracted 1,000 members and promotes crime prevention measures and countryside watch schemes. Moreover NFU county chairman John Tingey has hosted a second Rural Crime Conference to help come up with ways of deterring thieves.
According to the NFU Mutual, the number of tractor theft claims rose by 17% in 2010 and the cost of those claims increased by 21% as a result of the thieves’ liking for high-value farm machinery. ATV thefts, meanwhile, went up by 150% in 2011.
The Mutual, which provides insurance cover for 70% of UK farmers, says premiums are being forced up as a result of the crimes.
The hitlist: Top 10 most stolen items
The perpetrators are, it says, more often than not organised gangs that may well have arranged the sale of the machine while it’s still on the farm, but which can find its way on to the continent in a matter of hours. Poor security on farms and a mistaken perception that the risk of theft is low, it adds, are leaving rural communities at the mercy of thieves.
Official figures suggest machinery is stolen to the value of £70m/year (although the actual figure is likely to be higher), and tractor thefts make up about £25m of that.
Between 2008 and 2011 18,000 machines were stolen, of which 1,749 were tractors, 1,355 telehandlers and 633 were mowers, while a worrying 1,778 quads have been stolen since 2010. The recovery rate of those machines is just 5%, and the police point out that up to 75% of thefts involve repeat victims.
Livestock rustling has also re-emerged as a problem, with 142 cases reported in the first six months of 2011 compared with 156 for the whole of 2010. In response, the NFU has sponsored a police unit focused on rural crime to the tune of £190,000.
The conference also marked the launch of an NFU Mutual-subsidised CESAR registration scheme for ATVs, which will see 30% off the standard price (making it now £84) and free Smartwater tagging kit between 1 February and 30 June in Gloucestershire, with similar schemes running elsewhere in the country.
The CESAR registration scheme, which is used alongside Datatag’s tagging technology, has been operating since 2007. Police theft records suggest that machines equipped with CESAR are four times less likely to be stolen and those that are taken are far more likely to be recovered, with recovery rates currently at 32%.
The NFU Mutual offers insurance discounts on machines fitted with CESAR or other Thatcham-approved security devices. Up to 27.5% savings on insurance can be gained for those fitting a full set of security devices.
NFU Mutual discounts
To report a crime or see crimes in your area visit the Farmers Weekly Crime Register.