06 July 1998
Rural crime falls, but not in Wales

By Shelley Wright

RURAL crime across most of England has fallen for the first time in four years, according to the latest insurance claim figures. But on the other side of Offas Dyke, Wales is suffering from a massive increase in farm thefts.

Country-wide rural theft pay-outs fell 8.3% to 93.11 million last year, the NFU Mutual said. But the overall picture masks regional variations.

East Anglia, the North East and the South East saw significant drops in rural crime claims. But Wales recorded a a whopping 43.9% rise to 4.76m and the South-West of England saw claims jump to 16.07m – a leap of 11.7% on the year.

Ian Geden, NFU Mutual general manager, said the firm welcomed the national drop in claims. But there were no grounds for complacency, he added.

Theft of farm vehicles, particularly four-wheel-drives, tractors and ATVs, continue to be the target of determined thieves. Some of the vehicles taken from remote farms were more than a mile from public roads.

“We estimate that over 30,000 vehicles were stolen from farms and country homes last year leading to claims costing over 73m,” said Mr Geden. “The message is clear. You need to secure vehicles where ever you leave them these days,” he said.

Thefts of farm machinery and equipment in 1997 cost the insurance industry 14.2m. The bill for livestock rustling topped 5m, with more than 100,000 animals stolen during the year.

Mr Geden said that opportunist theft, rather than planned attacks on properties, was by far the most common. Criminals cruised the countryside looking for valuable items that appeared not to be secured.

Mr Geden advised farmers to consider what temptations were on offer on their holdings.

“Were recommending that country people take a look at their farms and homes from the point of view of a thief, and evaluate the effectiveness of their security measures,” he said.