Machinery and livestock worth close to £50m was stolen from British farms during 2010, according to a survey by NFU Mutual.
Britain’s largest rural insurer has warned criminals are systematically targeting Britain’s farms with the costs of tractor, livestock and oil thefts all rising sharply.
Its annual crime survey estimates that the cost of theft from UK farms rose to £49.7 million in 2010 – an increase of 17% from the previous year.
Tractor theft claims costs have increased 64% in two years and livestock rustling has also re-emerged as a problem with the suspicion being that this is happening as austerity measures bite.
During the first six months of 2011, 142 rustling claims were reported to NFU Mutual – compared with 156 in the whole of 2010.
North-East England was the worst affected area in 2010, followed by Northern Ireland, North-West England and the Midlands
Tractor theft remains a major problem for farmers, with a significant increase in the number of tractors being stolen and exported from channel ports to final destinations across the globe, reveals the survey.
The number of tractor theft claims dealt with by NFU Mutual rose by 8% in 2010 while the cost of claims rose 21% reflecting the trend for thieves to target expensive tractors.
There has also been a dramatic increase in claims for farm diesel and domestic heating oil since the cost of oil surged at the end of 2010.
Following price increases, claims for stolen heating oil rocketed 264% in January 2011.
The survey also highlighted an increased demand for high-priced items that are portable and easy to sell on. The theft of power tools such as chainsaws, electric drills and lawnmowers is common.
“Whether it’s the recession, tighter security in towns, or the rise in oil, meat and scrap metal prices countryside people are feeling the blight of rural crime on their land,” said Lindsay Sinclair, NFU Mutual Chief Executive.
“Country people are not taking this scourge lying down. Across the country new rural security initiatives are springing up involving rural communities and insurers such as NFU Mutual.
“We’ve already seen that by working with the police forces and manufacturers, tractor theft and organised rural crime can be tackled head-on. A united front against crime in the countryside will help to protect communities from being targeted further with vigilance as the watchword.”
Rural Crime Trends:
* Top five most stolen items are tools, quad bikes, oil and diesel, tractors and metal
* Cost of tractor theft risen by 64% as thieves target more expensive tractors
* Thefts of oil and diesel on rise since the end of 2010
* Most common time of thefts to act is midnight to 6am
* Power tools top of thieves list as they are portable and easy to sell on
* Crooks even stealing barbed wire from fences to sell on as scrap
Have you been a victim of crime? You can see a map showing how crime affects your region, plus register thefts of equipment or stock from your farm on the Farmers Weekly Crime Register.