Police Scotland has warned farmers to tighten up security as a wave of rural crime continues to sweep north.
The force’s lead on rural crime, chief supt Gavin Robertson, said that Scotland had been relatively crime free in the past but figures showed that was changing.
Tractor and quad bike theft has increased threefold in five years north of the border as organised gangs moved up the UK away from areas which had tightened security.
See also: Tractor thefts rise by 10% in Scotland
Quad bikes were being stolen to order and collected in containers of 30s or 40s, ready for shipment to the Continent. And the numbers of livestock stolen in large batches showed how well-co-ordinated criminals had become.
“Farmers in Scotland must see things are changing and take a different approach. They need to look at their property from the viewpoint of a potential thief,” Mr Robertson said.
“Look at upgrading locks on housing and fuel, improve lighting and secure ATVs.”
Mr Robertson also called on farmers to report all crime.
“We want farmers to know that we will act. Please do not fail to report any crime to us.”
NFU Scotland vice-president Rob Livesey echoed Mr Robertson’s call on reporting all crime.
Even if a crime seems relatively small it can have a big impact, he said.
“We have heard of a case where a farmer had parts removed from a JCB.
“At first the farmer thought it was a minor case. It was only when the replacement parts were quoted at £6,000 did he realise the extent of the cost and that he had been targeted by people who knew what they were looking for.”
Mr Livesey said that rural crime had a disproportionate effect psychologically.
“Victims of rural crimes feel a greater sense of isolation and vulnerability.
“It is vital that we join together to tackle this problem and make full use of farmwatch schemes and other community initiatives.
The union vice-president also urged rural dwellers to make use of a new guide produced by Police Scotland and NFUS.
The booklet – A Guide to Security in the Rural Environment – contains simple, practical steps that can be taken to combat criminals in a range of different scenarios.
The guide is available from Police Scotland as a pdf (Read PDF file).